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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers #138

Meredith Sue Willis's BOOKS FOR READERS Newsletter # 138 January 21, 2011

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Meredith Sue Willis's
Books for Readers # 138
January 21, 2011

Special Extra -- Article for Writers
On Doing Your Own Publicity

Dear Readers:
This is a special issue with some announcements and a couple of book discussions, but the main article is by writer and artist Carter Taylor Seaton about how she did publicity for her book. It has become a commonplace that whether you publish with a small press, self-publish or even publish with a huge commercial congolomerate, you are now often asked for a "platform" on how you intend to publicize your work– and then you are asked to publicize it, often at your own expense. Grim news for us introverted types-- but Carter has some specific suggestions.
-- MSW

Doing Your Own Publicity
By Carter Taylor Seaton

As the old cliché goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Just so, there's more than one way to market your book. If you've got a big enough name or deep enough pockets, either your publisher or the publicist you pay the big bucks will set up a book tour where folks will flock to see and hear you and, of course, buy piles of books for you to sign.
However, if you are new at the game, or have a small press that recognized your talents and published your book, you are most likely going to be doing the marketing yourself. That's the position in which I found myself several years ago, when Mid-Atlantic Highland Press published my debut novel.
Fortunately, I'd had nearly thirty years of marketing experience by then, and knew a few things that helped. First, I drew up a marketing plan, outlining what the publisher was willing and had the expertise to do, along with what I could do. His role was to create and distribute press kits to retailers and libraries, to secure reviews where he could, and to get the book on the inventory list of the distributors. I positioned myself to speak at every civic and social club, book club, retirement home, or college classroom in the region.
That plan is standard fare, however. My twist? I sent a letter prior to publication to a personal mailing list of over six hundred people offering them an opportunity to buy – at a pre-publication discount price – a numbered and signed copy of the book. These were individuals to whom I could safely address a letter saying, Dear John or Mary – folks I knew personally. Jokingly, I told them as one of my six hundred nearest and dearest friends they alone could take advantage of this golden opportunity. Over 250 people bought the book before a drop of ink had been applied to paper. That's more than a forty percent return on the offer – which in any marketer's book, is remarkable.

Carter Taylor Seaton is a free-lance writer living in Huntington, West Virginia. Her work has appeared in regional and statewide magazines in West Virginia and Kentucky, and in anthologies and literary journals. Her debut novel, FATHER'S TROUBLES, published in 2003 was a finalist for ForeWord Magazines Book of the Year awards in 2003. Her essay on West Virginia's back-to-the-land artisans, "Those Who Came," won a Denny C. Plattner award in 2007. She recently completed a second novel.


Monique Raphel High says, "Katie (Catherine) Gates is the author of a moving novel, THE SOMEBODY WHO, which is available from Amazon. It's a superb depiction of a middle-aged woman dealing with the care of her beloved husband who has been devastated by Alzheimer's. Some of you on this site are struggling with Evelyn's (the character's) dilemma; the book will nurture you. For others, it will be an engrossing read, especially now, by the fire or under the quilt."

Joel Weinberger says of ANIMAL LIBERATION by Peter Singer: " ANIMAL LIBERATION asks, and attempts to answer, several extraordinarily important moral questions that we often take for granted. Namely, should we care about how animals are treated, and if so, to what extent? Singer ultimately believes that human civilization cannot justify suffering caused to animals, for eating, for research, nor any other purpose.
"Singer starts with an argument that our worldview reinforces 'speciesism,' a prejudice akin to racism and sexism. His argument is strong enough, if your moral framework does not explicitly define human relationships with the world. For example, his argument against 'speciesism' falls flat against a Christian or Jewish ethical framework that explicitly defines humans as a separate category from animals, in a moral sense. Singer talks about this explicitly in a later chapter, pretty much admitting that his moral case for 'speciesism' conflicts with at least traditional Christian and Jewish morality. However, even in these cases, his general point about the suffering stands. Even if you don't believe that humans should be completely morally barred from causing animal suffering, his case stands strong that you should at least minimize it.
"While the moral framework Singer provides may be the most radical part of his book, his exposé of animal treatment on factory farms and in research is ... well known and important. Two very large sections of the book discuss how the industrialized and 'civilized' Western world directly lead to inordinate amounts of animal suffering, specifically in research and factory farming. These sections really push home the point that our everyday consumption of food and products directly tie into the tremendous suffering of animals around the world.
"In some sense, Peter Singer is ultimately a utilitarian. He believes that we should feel free to act as we please as long as the utility gained outweighs the utility cost. However, Singer counts the suffering of animals as a much greater utility cost than humanity traditionally has. Thus, while he believes an experiment on animals that causes suffering can, in fact, be justified, it would have to be one hell of a result, and should only be done if there wasn't an alternative that would have been pain free. Moreover, he believes that if you are willing to test on a monkey, for example, you should also be willing to test on a retarded, orphaned, infant, as he sees the potential suffering to that child equal to, if not less than, the monkey's suffering. Ultimately, the practical ramification of this outlook is that these types of evaluations are much too difficult, and we just should not cause suffering to animals of any sort.
"There are numerous holes in Singer's presentation. For example, in his presentation of animal experiments, he constantly asserts that the results from the experiments he presents are useless. However, he provides virtually no evidence of this. Furthermore, he fails to show that generally the results from animal experiments are not useful or could be replicated in other ways. In some sense, this really isn't important to his argument; Singer says we basically shouldn't be doing these experiments even if there is a benefit to us. But then again, he is trying to make the utilitarian argument that our experiments are not worth the cost.
"Perhaps most surprisingly, and most gratifyingly, is that Singer ultimately proposes a practical 'do what you can' approach. He certainly calls for a vegetarian diet (it turns out to really be a vegan diet), but he also makes it clear that anything you can do to reduce animal suffering is certainly better than the status quo.
"Overall, however, Singer's book is a radical departure from our standard thought in the most positive sense. He makes us question our unflinching belief that we, as humans, have the 'right' to cause animal suffering for our benefit and gratification. Singer's book is incredibly thought out and well researched. If you have ever doubted your consumption of meat or how our civilization treats animals, this is a must read. At the very least, if you can defend your meat consumption after reading this book, you are in very good shape. I certainly have begun to question my own habits deeply."

(Also see Joel Weinberger's piece in Issue #137 on Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals.)


Need a laugh? Try BO's Café Life at

Poems Newly Online by Barbara Crooker:


JUANITA TORRENCE-THOMPSON, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher/Owner of the Internationally acclaimed MOBIUS, THE POETRY MAGAZINE is seeking a GROUP of poets and/or editors or a COLLEGE or individual to purchase and publish her 28-year old print magazine. Contact her at:


Some friends of mine in the South Orange/Maplewood, New Jersey area have a reading group called "Women Reading Women." They celebrated their 16th anniversary in December, 2010. They sometimes have theme parties, and always make interesting choices (okay, they've chosen my books at least three times!). Here are their choices for 2011, including a play in February, which they'll see as well as read:

January: YOUR BLUES AIN'T LIKE MINE by Bebe Moore Campbell
March: CLEOPATRA: A LIFE by Stacy Schiff
April: OUT OF THE MOUNTAINS by Meredith Sue Willis
June: HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Krauss
July: THE BELL by Iris Murdoch
August: GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
September: EVIDENCE OF LIFE UNSEEN by Marianne Wiggins
October: JUST KIDS by Patti Smith
November: PASSING by Nella Larsen


Holly Iglesias's new collection of poetry ANGLES OF APPROACH is just out from White Pine Press.

2011 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize Submission deadline: April 30, 2011 See Submit a manuscript of 48-84pages of original poetry in any style in English. The manuscript must not have been published previously in book form, although individual poems appearing in print or on the web are permitted. Entries may consist of individual poems, a book-length poem, or any combination of long or short poems. Collaborations are welcome. Alicia Ostriker to Judge 8th Annual Contest

Make sure to read the exciting Winter Issue of Persimmon Tree at You'll find a thought-provoking conversation with Maxine Hong Kingston and Susan Griffin, fiction by Carol Bergman and Deborah Shouse, poetry by Sandra Gilbert, and much more. We're accepting submissions now for our next SHORT TAKES contest. (Check out the guidelines by clicking here and scrolling down.) This section has proven to be one of our most popular, so consider sending us a short piece; winners will be published in the upcoming Summer '11 Issue. The subject this time is "Taking a Stand."

Thad Rutkowski's new book HAYWIRE: A NOVEL is available from Starcherone Press at .

Victor Depta's new book is BROTHER AND SISTER: A MEMOIR from Blair Mountain Press, which has a new website: http://www.


Phyllis Moore recommends a couple of good books set in West Virginia:

The MOUSE HUNTER, by Gaynelle Malesky. "This is a charming memoir about growing up in Marion County."
THE LEGEND OF MAMMY JANE by Sibyl Jarvis Pischke. "A grad student at WVU suggested this title to me and I found it to be full of interesting facts about the era surrounding the Civil War. I enjoyed it. The Jarvis family still lives in this [West Virginia] area, but Ms. Pischke lives in Florida now."
THE CHIMNEY SISTERS by Joyce Williams & Saundra Ours: " These two authors are from Harrison County and it is a fun novel to read."


The largest unionized bookstore in America is Powell's Books ( Some people prefer shopping there to shopping at An alternative way to reach their site and support the union is via Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go directly to the [Powell's bookstore] union's benefit fund. For a discussion about Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #98 (bfrarchive96-100.html#97) and #97 (bfrarchive96-100.html#98).


If a book discussed in this newsletter has no source mentioned, try your public library or your local independent bookstore. To buy books online, I often use Bookfinder at or Alibis at Bookfinder has a feature that tells you the book price WITH shipping and handling, so you can compare what you're really going to have to pay. A lot of people whose political instincts I respect prefer to deal with the unionized bricks-and-mortar bookstore Powells online at .

Other good sources for used and out-of-print books include Advanced Book Exchange at and All Book Stores at

My latest way to get used books is through Paperback Book Swap at, a low cost (postage only) way to get rid of books and get new ones.

Please send responses and suggestions to Meredith Sue Willis at Unless you instruct otherwise, your responses may be edited silently for length, polished for grammar and spelling, and published in this newsletter.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Write In The Heart of Appalachia Low Residency MFA program.

West Virginia Wesleyan College is proud to announce its Low Residency MFA program in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction and Poetry. Study with accomplished and dedicated mentors
in an intimate and focused program.

• Faculty/Student ratio of no greater than 1:4

• Application deadline for first cohort is March 1, 2011. Classes begin July 2, 2011

For more information, contact:

Dr. Irene McKinney
Director, Master of Fine Arts Program
State Poet Laureate of West Virginia
West Virginia Wesleyan College
59 College Avenue
Buckhannon, WV 26201
(304) 473-8329

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

WVW 2011 Annual Writing Contest Judges List

UPDATED 3/10/11

Please note: We're still awaiting the final list of judges, so there are some missing categories here. They will be posted post haste.

Please see our Contest Page for entry forms and rules and regulations.


Long Poetry — Irene McKinney, Ph.D.
Dr. Irene McKinney has been our state’s poet laureate since 1993. She is the Director of the Low Residency MFA Program at WV Wesleyan College. She has served as poet-in residence for the WV Commission on the Arts and is the cofounder of Trellisi, a WV poetry journal.
Her first book of poems, The Girl with the Stone in Her Lap, was published in 1976, followed by The Wasps at the Blue Hexagon in 1984, Quick Fire and Slow Fire in 1988, Six O’Clock Mine Report in 1989, Vivid Companion in 2004, and Unthinkable: Selected Powems 1976-2004 in 2009. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985, the Utah Arts Counsel Prize Award in Fiction, the Breadloaf Scholarship, the Cincinnati Review Annual Poetry Prize, the Kentucky Foundation for Women Award, and the Appalachian Mellon Fellowship.

Short Poetry — Barbara Smith, Litt.D.
Free-lance writer/editor, and medical ethicist, Emerita Professor of Literature and Writing and former Chair of the Division of the Humanities, Alderson-Broaddus College, Philippi, West Virginia. Most recent books: Demonstrative Pronouns (poetry), Judge Ira Robinson: West Virginia Statesman and Man of Letters (biography), Chick Flicks (short stories), On Golf and Other Sports and Non-sports (poetry), and most recently, Through the Glass (novel). Community and church activist and sports nut.

Short Story — Jennifer Brown
Jennifer Brown writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, area with her husband and three children. Her debut novel, Hate List, was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA Perfect Ten, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and is on the Texas Library Association's 2011 TAYSHAS reading list, is a 2011 Gateway Award Nominee, and won the Michigan Library Association's Thumbs Up! award. Her second YA novel, Bitter End, is scheduled to be released in May 2011 (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). Her website is

Non-fiction — Judith Tabler
Judith Tabler is a Professor of English at Marymount University in Arlington, VA and the workshop leader at the Writers Center in Bethesda, MD. She has been an editor for Columbia Books and has worked as a free lance writer for national Geographic in the Educational Department. Her publications include three non-fiction books on dog breeds, two young adult biographies - Levi Strauss and Evita Peron – and many magazine articles.

TOPIC: Animals — Janice Gary
Janice Gary is the recipient of the Christine White Award for Nonfiction/Memoir and the Ames Award for essay. Her work has appeared in Literal Latte, Kaleidoscope, the Baltimore Review, the Cincinnati Enquirer and Women Speak Out, an anthology of women's writing published by the Crossing Press. She was a featured writer at the 2006 Emerging Voices series presented at the New York City Public Library and is a fellow of The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Ms. Gary is a columnist for the Capital-Gazette (Annapolis) and teaches Creative Writing and Memoir at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland. She lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband Curt and West Virginia-born rescue pup, Winston Wild and Wonderful.

TOPIC: Appalachian — Meredith Sue Willis
Meredith Sue Willis was raised in Shinnston, West Virginia, where here father’s family came following storekeeper jobs with Consolidation Coal. Her mother’s father was working on the tipple in Monongah at the time of the mine disaster of 1907. Meredith Sue now lives in New Jersey near New York City where she is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Her novels and short fiction have been published by Scribners’, HarperCollins, West Virginia University Press, Mercury House, and others. Her latest books are Ten Strategies to Write Your Novel from Montemayor Press and a book of literary Appalachian stories from Ohio University Press called Out of the Mountains, praised in Booklist as a “finely crafted collection...worth reading twice to discover all its intricacies and connections.”

TOPIC: War — James Mathews
James Mathews grew up in El Paso, Texas and now lives in Maryland. He is a member of the DC Air National Guard and has been deployed overseas numerous times, including two tours in Iraq (2003 and 2006). His fiction has appeared in many literary journals, including the Northwest Review, Carolina Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review and The Florida Review. In 2008, the University of North Texas Press published his first collection of military-themed short stories called Last Known Position, which won the 2008 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. His website is

Emerging Poetry — Jeff Mann
Jeff Mann grew up in Covington, Virginia, and Hinton, West Virginia, receiving degrees in English and forestry from West Virginia University. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in many publications, including Arts and Letters, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Willow Springs, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, Crab Orchard Review, Bloom, and Appalachian Heritage. He has published three award-winning poetry chapbooks, Bliss, Mountain Fireflies, and Flint Shards from Sussex; three full-length books of poetry, Bones Washed with Wine, On the Tongue, and Ash: Poems from Norse Mythology; two collections of personal essays, Edge: Travels of an Appalachian Leather Bear and Binding the God: Ursine Essays from the Mountain South; a novella, Devoured, included in Masters of Midnight: Erotic Tales of the Vampire; a book of poetry and memoir, Loving Mountains, Loving Men; and a volume of short fiction, A History of Barbed Wire, which won a Lambda Literary Award. He teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Book Length Prose — Pam Hanson
Pam Andrews Hanson along with her writing partner (and mother) is the author of 30+ novels, including romances for Harlequin and women’s inspirational fiction for Guideposts Publishing. A former reporter, Pam previously taught journalism at West Virginia University. She now resides with her family in Nebraska, where she writes fulltime (often in her jammies).

Children's Book — Laura Bowers
Laura Bowers is a young adult novelist, wife, mother, Orioles fan—no matter what their record is, and compulsive list keeper. Her first novel, BEAUTY SHOP FOR RENT, a “Steel Magnolias for Teens,” was nominated for the 2009 Kentucky Book Award, 2009/2010 Volunteer State Book Award, and the 2010 New York State Reading Association’s Charlotte Award. Her second novel, JUST FLIRT, will be coming out in spring 2012 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

Emerging Writers Prose — Jeanette Luise Eberhardy, Ph.D.
Jeanette Luise Eberhardy, PhD, MFA, teaches writing at Massachusetts College of Art & Design and her work appears in Brevity magazine. As a creativity & writing consultant, she works internationally with the YES team to promote youth employment, most recently in Egypt. Eberhardy is working on a book, Creating Meaningful Work: What People Do and How It Impacts the World, a collection of interviews with entrepreneurs, artists, and activists who are creating new work for the next generation around the globe. She earned an MFA at Goucher College in Creative Nonfiction Writing.

Screenplays — Joe C. Evans
Born and raised (for the most part) in Mississippi, Joe Evans fell in love with movies when his older brother first showed him Frankenstein. Joe is a Past director of the Magnolia Film Festival and still sits on its board. After working a summer with Theatre West Virginia right out of college, Joe went on to work in the fields of music and technical theatre before settling into teaching music, drama and history in the Starkville, Mississippi. He is also heavily involved in the Summer Scholars On Stage program at Mississippi State University. This summer program lets young people write and produce their own stage musical in three weeks from scratch. Joe is starting a project at his school designed to foster young filmmakers get their projects out of their heads and on camera. He shares his house with his wife Leigh Ann, his sons Jonah and Rhys, and three cats.


Elementary — Michelle Bowers
Michelle Bowers is a professional puppeteer and theatre teacher who has taught students from the elementary level to the college level. She relocated to Charleston five years ago from South Carolina where she earned her Master’s in Theatre from the University of South Carolina. She has worked as an Adjunct professor for West Virginia State University teaching classes in Puppetry, Acting and Speech. Her written works include two original puppet plays, stage adaptations, articles and press pieces in The Beaufort Magazine, Southern Sensations, The Beaufort Gazette, and for the Beaufort County Public Schools. Michelle has taught classes in Playwriting and Writing for the Puppet Stage at Dreher High School in Columbia, South Carolina. Michelle serves on the Charleston Stage Company Board where she is the chair of the Marketing Committee. She belongs to a local writer’s group called Sunday’s at Two, and is currently working on her first novel which is set in the South Carolina low country.

Middle School — Belinda Anderson
Belinda Anderson is the parliamentarian for West Virginia Writers, Inc. She holds a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a master's of liberal arts studies. She's written for such publications as The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Goldenseal, Wonderful West Virginia, Book Page and Writers' Journal, among others. Belinda often presents readings and fiction and nonfiction workshops. In 2004, Belinda was inducted into the ranks of those authors and literary figures who appear on the first official Literary Map of West Virginia. Her first collection of award-winning short stories, The Well Ain't Dry Yet, was published in 2001. Publisher Mountain State Press brought out her second collection, The Bingo Cheaters, in 2006, and her most recent collection, Buckle Up, Buttercup, was published in the Summer of 2008. She's at work now on a novel for middle-grade readers, and a nonfiction book about the history of Wolf Creek Mountain.
"When I speak in elementary school classrooms, I like to involve the children in writing their own stories. I'm always delighted with the directions their creative minds take. I'm looking forward to seeing what the contestants' imaginations produce."

High School Category — Jessica Murphy
Jessica Murphy received her Bachelor's degree in English from West Virginia University, where she is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Professional Writing and Editing and teaching Composition and Rhetoric. Jessica has completed several editing internships, and her writing won first place in the Jon Scott Nelson Professional and Technical Writing 2010 Contest, first place in the Prose category of the West Virginia Writers 2010 Writer’s Wall Contest, and second and third place in the James Paul Brawner Expository Writing 2009 and 2010 Contest respectively.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review of David Selby's new novel.

(This news courtesy of WVW 2010 Contest Coordinator Steve Goff. The article he speaks of was written by friend of WVW Norman Julian of the Dominion Post.-- ed)

Greetings, here's a nice book review by Norm Julian of David Selby's novel. Some of you will know or recognize Selby from his days as an actor with a featured role on the fan favorite TV show Dark Shadows. (AND AS A FORMER WVW CONFERENCE WORKSHOP PRESENTER AND OUR GUEST AT FESTIVALL 2010 -- ED.) I never saw the show but know it was a cult favorite as a late in the afternoon, Vampire soap really.

Since the 1980's Selby has been drawing on his WV roots to generate much of his art, and from the sounds of NJ's review, he his novel should be a good read.



536 words

My hunch is that David Selby approved when earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency revoked a crucial water permit at a vast Arch Coal Logan County mine.

Selby is a WVU grad and Hollywood actor and writer who delivered the keynote commencement address at WVU graduation in 2004.

His new novel "The Blue Door" pivots around the polarizing issue of surface mining in West Virginia. Some novels inform, some entertain and some persuade. This one does all three.

It was said of Lincoln that when he argued cases he could explain the other guy's position better than his opponent, thus making his own case more convincing.

And that is how I read Selby as he backgrounds not only why the mountains shouldn't be leveled but why they have been.

This quote is the most persuasive of the "pro" arguments:

"You can't say no to coal, Governor. You can't go nuclear, even though it may be prettier. How much uranium have we got? How long is oil going to stay a nickel-ninety-eight? The alternative stuff is Disneyland. Coal is real."

But the day really belongs to Sally, the activists who decides to cling to her mountainside home despite the mountains being blow apart above it.

She is said to be "a woman who was threatening the livelihood and freedom, the very manhood of the white male mountaineer."

This is a Roman-a-clef novel, a fancy term for a work that presents real characters with fictional names.

Thus we encounter the coal baron, name of Messing, who is Sally's main antagonist. We also are introduced to the famous in state and national business and politics.

You meet Wally "Barren," Arch Moore, and Judge Charles Haden, a Morgantown native who comes off well because of his courageous stand against stream pollution. Sally stands against wealthy patriarchs and only the judge comes to her rescue because he puts fairness and justice above politics.

In real life, though, George Bush's EPA overturned Haden's ruling. Selby shows how.

Sally is not against underground mining, the kind her father and boyfriend do. But she rails against mountaintop removal. She calls West Virginia a "sacrifice zone."

In one scene, as her house is rocked by explosions, she pronounces her credo thusly: "The only promise that matters to me is the one I made to my dad - that my granddaughter would know her legacy. I will tell her that I tried my very best. Do the best I can do for these mountains."

That is the theme of the novel, too.

It is the mature, measured judgment of a distinguished WVU graduate. Does David Selby pull it off?

The proof may be in who reads it. If he succeeds only in singing to the choir made up of those (like me) who oppose mountaintop removal, then maybe the novel will fail.

But if, as Lincoln did, he could number among his readers those who have power to influence the process - and Jay Rockefeller and acting governor Earl Ray Tomblin quickly come to mind - then his work may persuade broadly.

When Selby addressed WVU graduates in 2004, he said, "Education is light in the dark." And so this book is, too.

(Norman Julian is a columnist at large for The Dominion Post. You can reach him at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dying to Write WV Horror Writers Conference

Dying to Write the retreat to attend if you are a writer of horror, supernatural,
dark fiction and thrillers!

DATES: April 1 ~ 3, 2011
Canaan Valley Resort
Davis, West Virginia



5:00pm – 6:00pm: Check in/registration. Check in at the lodge registration desk for your rooms and they will direct you to the downstairs meeting room for the conference registration.

8:00pm til they throw us out!: Kick off the retreat with our Mayhem Mixer Costume Party (aka: meet & greet thriller) dress in your best literary horror haute couture and join us in the Laurel Lounge for a cash bar mixer. Fan-voted awards given for the most creative costumes on Sunday morning.


10:00am – 12:00pm: Guest Speaker: Michael Knost Workshop Topic: TBD

12Noon – 3:30pm: R.I.P. (rest, read, relax in peace) This is your down time to enjoy the eerily haunting beauty of your surrounding, catch up on your sleep from staying up late with the lights on, or grab a bite to eat.

3:30pm – 5:30pm: Guest Speaker: To be arranged.

5:30pm – 8:00pm: R.I.P. (rest, read, relax in peace)

8:00pm – 10:00pm (or later): “Haunted History and the Paranormal.” Learn how to research, explore and write about the darker side of history with paranormal investigator and author, Sherri Brake. Weather permitting,Sherri will follow her class with a ghost hunt through the valley. Bring a flashlight & weather-appropriate clothing.

Sunday, APRIL 3, 2011
9:00am – 10:00pm: Closing & prizes awarded.

Retreat Cost is $169 per person and does not include lodging, meals or beverages (cash bar.) Registration fee includes: Participation in all retreat events listed above. If you are staying at the lodge, all resort amenities are included with your room.

To reserve your room at Canaan Valley Resort: Lodge rooms are available for the Dying to Write Retreat at a special rate of $49 a night per person (excludes taxes and resort fees.) Contact the resort directly at 304-866-4121. Be sure to mention the Dying to Write Conference when you call.

Shopping:Our speakers will have their books and merchandise for sale at the Retreat, so bring plenty of spending money.

For more information or to be placed on our mailing list, send contact info to
Connect with us on FACEBOOK.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Diverse Community" vignette contest

The Capitol School of Performing Arts, in conjunction with the Royal Bank of Canada, is looking for young writers aged 35 and under to enter a playwriting competition that offers three prizes of $500.

The Capitol School of Performing Arts is a theatre training school for students from ages 9 to 70. One of its aims is to promote original productions based on and in the community and to offer performance opportunities to as many students as possible. For the third year of its Resurgo project, the Capitol School of Performing Arts will mount an original production in June based on three of the vignettes submitted.

This year's theme is "Hey! We live in a diverse community." Each vignette should be less than 30 minutes long and can be written in English, French, any other language or no language at all. Individuals or groups can make submissions.

For further information please contact Tim Borlase at 383-6200 or; or Marshall Button at 383-6203 or Deadline for submissions is February 10.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


Dramatic Publishing wishes to bring out a collection of scenes and
monologues tailored for the classroom entitled Original Middle School
Scenes and Monologues. This anthology will be similar in format to our
Scenes and Monologues for Young Actors and Classroom Scenes and

I will be serving as the editor on the project, and sincerely hope you
will submit your work for consideration. Also, if you know other
authors who focus on the young performer, I would appreciate it
greatly if you would forward these guidelines to them. Contributors
will receive (2) complimentary copies of the book and a one-time
payment: $100 for each scene published and $50 for each monologue
published. Contributors will retain all performance/ reprint rights.
Inclusion of your work in the anthology does not limit your right to
submit it to other publishers as part of a larger work.

DEADLINE: May 15, 2011

Scenes: Length: 6-9 manuscript pages. Single-space the dialogue.
Comedies, dramas, farces. Scenes may be excerpted from a longer
unpublished work but must be free-standing, feature strong/numerous
roles for young performers and address the concerns and issues facing
young people. No more than 3 actors – doubling acceptable. Especially
interested in scenes favoring women. Excessive "street" language or
situations not desired. Title each scene.

Monologues: Length: 1 ½ - 2 minutes. Submit double-spaced. Comic or
serious. Monologues should explore the concerns and issues facing
young people. Consider pieces that may be performed by either gender.
Excessive "street" language or situations not desired. Title each

--Include a short bio of 150 words or less.

--Scripts/monologues will not be returned. Receipt will be
acknowledged either by email

or SASP/E if provided.

--If the scene/monologue is from a larger unpublished work, please
cite the original

piece and the copyright date. All selections will be identified in
the Permission -

Acknowlegement section of the anthology.

--Electronic submissions accepted: WORD ATTACHMENT only.

--Regular mail -- Kent R. Brown, Associate Editor, Dramatic Publishing Company,

55 Stroll Rock Common, Fairfield, CT 06824

Please update your home/professional mailing address/your home/cell phone.

Any questions, please do not hesitate to contact or 203-254-7440.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers #137

Newsletter # 137

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● Final call for my January Online Class "Strategies to Write Your Novel." The class is almost full. For information, see

● Writers: Submissions for THE HAMILTON STONE REVIEW winter issue #23 are now open. See the details at

● For those of you doing last minute gift shopping, consider the wealth of small press books that may delight and interest people on your list. Take a look, for starters, at my Gift Books list at

Let me begin this issue with an excellent new novel, THE CHIEU HOI SALOON by Michael Harris. This is part of PM Press's Switchblade series ( "a different slice of hard-boiled fiction where the dreamers and the schemers, the dispossessed and the damned, and the hobos and the rebels tango at the edge of society").

The setting is the seamy side of Long Beach, California, during year of the Rodney King beating and subsequent trials and riots. The protagonist is Harry Hudson, a chronic stutterer who works at a fictional newspaper called the CLARION as a copy editor. He is barely keeping his job, living in what he calls a "blur," trying not to remember the death of an old villager when he was a soldier in Vietnam and the death of his small daughter much more recently. He does try to remember to send child support to his ex-wife and surviving child. When he is feeling particularly self-destructive, he goes to dives where people watch low quality pornographic movies and variously have sex with strangers and themselves. The good part of Harry's life is Mama Thuy's Chieu Hoi Saloon where he feels a modicum of belonging, and in his free time he tries to help a local prostitute with an extended dysfunctional and violent family.

Now here's the thing: what I've described so far is how the book gets labeled noir, but Harry is at rock bottom, a lover and care-taker. It is Harry's story, but Michael Harris gives the women in Harry's life occasional point of view passages, notably the tough but tender Mama Thuy and Kelly the Kansas born African-American prostitute who always needs money. Even Harry's religious zealot of a wife gets a passage that dips into her consciousness. All of these women, even his ex in her section, value, admire, and forgive Harry. If only Harry could forgive himself, which is the monumental task before him.

Harry's adventures take place mostly on dark streets and in crummy rooms in rough neighborhoods and include being shot in a hold-up and taking a bizarre but bizarrely believable drive with an armed enemy in the back seat of his car. These elements– the scene, the slimy sex, the casual violence– are what makes the novel part of the Switchblade series, but while the story has hard edges, it isn't really hard-boiled, not even heart-of-gold hard-boiled. Most of the evil (except for the plans of very distant, very rich newspaper owners) is as much situational and mistaken as it is intentional. Most of the people are in one degree or another understandable if not lovable, from the motley crew at the bar to Kelly and her incarcerated husband, her quarrelsome sister-in-law and niece, her ex-con brother, and her dangerous step-son.
Everyone uses Harry, but also appreciates him as a friend– this is true of Kelly, and also of Mama Thuy, who accepts his money to bring her family out of Vietnam to California. Harry wants to be loved and maybe married, but instead is a friend, maybe a more valuable relationship to most women than husband or lover.

Above all, Harry is worth reading about and feeling for. It's a good book, engrossing and– even if the end is not exactly upbeat– all the doors are open.

Next, I want to recommend a nonfiction book that wasn't as good as I'd hoped, but was still pretty darn fascinating: THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN: A TALE OF MURDER, INSANITY, AND THE MAKING OF THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY by Simon Winchester. There are a few too many instances of Winchester eating his narrative cake and having it too. For example, he tells an apocryphal tale of how Professor James Murray met Dr. W.C. Minor without knowing that he was in an institution for the criminally insane. In fact, Murray learned this in a much less dramatic way. Wincester tells the real, less thrilling version much later in the book. Unfortunately, if you only read the first part of the book, you'd go away with the wrong information.

Less egregious is his lurid narration of the murder that got W.C. Minor in the insane asylum in the first place. The London fog and darkness is well-described and evocative, but, again, it's written for maximum dramatic effect. What I liked best was the lively description of how the OED was developed; what a monumental task it was– and how it was in some ways a proto-Wikipedia; for the story of poor Dr. Minor and his work on the OED and his insanity. It's such a sad story: his crazy crime, his time as a Civil War surgeon (he was an American), his pathetic self-mutilation late in life. To see more of Winchester's broad reach of nonfiction books, go to his website book page at

I also read with great pleasure (thank you Connie Brosi for the recommendation!) FOLLOW THE RIVER by James Alexander Thom. This is an historical novel of the amazing true adventure of Mary Draper Ingles, who was captured by Shawnees, escaped, and walked hundreds of miles home through the Appalachian mountains in early winter through incredible difficulties. She has a companion, too, a crazy, hungry Dutch woman, who adds a kind of twisted humor and interesting human relationship to the amazing physical challenges. Thom does the physical challenges extremely well. He treats Ingles as an ordinary human being bent on survival, and his respect for her has just the right tone. He writes of the horror from the white settlers' point of view at the scalping and murder by the raiding Shawnees, but also presents the Shawnee villages as complex communities, and even allows Mary a moment of considering accepting her captor, known as Captain Wildcat, as a husband.

When Mary chooses to run away and go home, she has to leave three children behind. The afterword of the novel tells about how one of her sons is eventually returned to the white world, but has an ambivalent relationship with it, and often returns to the Shawnee world.

I hope to read more of Thom's books (see his website at, and the work of his wife Dark Rain Thom, a voting member of the council of the East of the River Shawnee of Ohio.

Finally, to stick with the old fashioned delight of tales well told, I have a new guilty addiction: the George R.R. Martin swords and sorcery series, FIRE AND ICE, starting with GAME OF THRONES. Boy, was this fun, and now about to become a series on HBO. It isn't the kind of serious fiction I aspire to write myself (although when I enjoy it so much, I sometimes ask myself why it isn't), and I couldn't read only this kind of book with its portentous hints of dark deeds past and darker deeds to come, with its beheadings and sword play, but it is fun fun fun. Part of what makes it work for me is that Martin, like James Alexander Thom, is willing to grant his women agency and power. There's one charming girl character who is even a fighter, and a couple of armored warriors who are women as well as leaders. Another really good character is a dwarf known as the Imp who is a member of the bad royal family, but clever and humorous, and probably the most consistently reasonable voice in the book. I like some of the point-of-view characters more than others– the Imp and the fighter girl are my favorites– and I admit to speeding up over the whack thwack and sickening crunch of the battle scenes. One thing Martin does so well is the sorcery element– the dragons and secret magic– which are dealt with sparingly, which is fine with me, as my complaint in novels with magic is always that the writers tend to use magic or the arrival of the good dragons from the sky to solve plot problems they couldn't resolve otherwise. So far, Martin is doing it all right.

– Meredith Sue Willis


Foer explicitly is "not trying to make you a vegetarian." He's lying; this is exactly what he's trying to do. In fairness, it is really about "better options" when eating animals, but by the end, it's quite clear what he thinks (and wants you to think) about "the best options" for eating meat. (Here's a hint: he's not in favor of them). Just to be clear, I don't think there's anything wrong with this approach, you just should be aware of what you're getting yourself into.

The book itself is solid, albeit heavy handed at points and missing critical arguments at times. For example, Foer makes a great deal of not-so-subtle argument by adjective, referring to the "Frakenstein genetic makeup" of factory-farmed chickens. He also fails to fully address several important questions, like why we have factory farming in the first place. Waving it off as merely a result of a drive for profit, he fails to point out that it is part of a greater movement towards factory farming that has greatly increased the worlds' food stores and in large part staved off food shortages.

That having been said, Foer paints a powerful portrait of exactly what goes into your meat. He is most successful when he sticks to simply describing the facts of factory farming: for the animals involved, for the environment, and for us, the humans (Spoiler alert: it isn't good for any of them). If you have a strong sense of supporting moral and ethical behavior, this is an important read in understanding exactly what goes into that chicken wing you're about to eat.

The inevitable comparrison is to Michael Pollan's magnificent "The Omnivore's Dilemna." Let's cut to the chase: "Eating Animals" is not as good. Pollan does a much better job of not trying to appeal to emotion, and he at least *tries* to give a half-hearted defense of why factory farming is here. That having been said, Foer takes many of Pollan's arugments and applies them more fully to animal farming. At the very least, Foer makes you wonder about your meat consumption.

If you have an interst in where your meat comes from, this is a must read. Just know what it is before you start reading it.


Jane Lazarre says: "Not only was the Oz memoir (A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS see Issue # 136 one of the most wonderful books I have read, and I use it often for many reasons - writing and teaching, but the new novel by David Grossman TO THE END OF THE LAND is the best novel I have read in years - moving, beautiful, layered, complex. I also recommend FRIENDLY FIRE, and THE LIBERATED BRIDE, both by A.B. Yeshoshua, along with Oz and Grossman-- all three Israelis - very highly."

Monique Raphel High writes, "Hallie Ephron has a new mystery novel: COME AND GET ME. Her first one, NEVER TELL A LIE, was so compelling and such a page-turner that we should all rush off to buy it! There was also a delightful piece by her sister Nora in the New Yorker a few weeks ago that mentioned Hallie and her sisters."

Jeffrey Sokolow recommends A CURABLE ROMANTIC by Joseph Skibell (Algonquin Books, 2010). "In this sprawling and magical novel, which begins in Vienna in 1895 and ends in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940, the protagonist has strange encounters with three well-known historic personages – Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis; Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof (aka Doktor Esperanto), inventor of the 'universal language' Esperanto; and the Hasidic rebbe of Warsaw, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira – along with a love-sick but vindictive dybbuk (in Jewish folklore, the spirit of a dead person who possesses the body of the living) who has pursued the protagonist through an unending series of lifetimes and several not-quite-so-angelic angels. I couldn't put it down, but was sorry to finish it because I wanted the story to keep going. It's a great read."


Poetry online and on the air: Lawrence Joseph, D. Nurkse, Hugh Seidman, and Susan Wheeler on WBAI's "The Next Hour" Sunday, 12/14, 11 AM, WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City.
WBAI Home Page: WBAI Live Stream:
WBAI 7-Day Archive: "Next Hour" Permanent Archive:

Read a sample of Barry S. Willdorf's FLIGHT OF THE SORCERESS at . The book is available from Wild Child Publishing, the result of eight years of research, writing and editing. It represents an accurate portrayal of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century A.D. with appearances by several notable personages of that period including Hypatia of Alexandria, Pelagius the heretic, Pope Innocent, Saint Augustine and the Roman Prefect, Orestes. Further information about this unique historical novel, set in the fifth century A.D., can be found at: and at the publisher's website, .


Louise T. Gantress' new book BITTER TEA is praised by James Fallows of THE ATLANTIC:
"With Bitter Tea, Louise T. Gantress has produced a vivid, memorable and realistic portrait of Japan during the boom years of the 1980s. The oddities and delusions of those days made an indelible impression on those who witnessed them, and this book brings all the details back to life."

THE CENTER FOR FICTION (formerly the Mercantile Library) in NYC: Events has rental space for writers.

Mike Topp has a new book called SASQUATCH STORIES from Publishing Genius Press, with a cover drawing by Tao Lin and a frontispiece drawing by former Silver Jew David Berman. Information here: or email Mike at

EPIPHANY is proud to announce the arrival of its Fall/Winter 2010-2011 issue, PERSISTENT LABYRINTHS: ANALOGUE ANTIDOTES TO THE DIGITAL MORASS, vital new writings that, disparate as they are, all bring readers to engrossing and unexpected places in the mazes life perennially holds in store. The new EPIPHANY includes a richly comic story by Dale Peck ("Not Even Camping Is Like Camping Anymore"); an excerpt from Lisa Dierbeck's hip new novel, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JENNY X, that strips the façade off the private life of a powerful senator's son; two further chapters from KEEP THIS FORTUNE, silver-spoon adoptee A.B. Meyer's witty and moving memoir of reuniting with her birth mother; and much more, including débuts by promising and original new writers you won't find anywhere else.

THE WRITING LIFE WORKSHOP with Ellen Bass January 28-30, 2011, Esalen, Big Sur .
This workshop will offer an inspiring environment in which to write, share our work, and receive supportive feedback. We'll help each other become clearer, go deeper, express our feelings and ideas more powerfully. From beginners to experienced, all writers are welcome. Whether you are interested in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or journal writing, this workshop will provide an opportunity to explore and expand your writing world. Esalen fees cover tuition, food and lodging and vary according to accommodations--ranging from $360 to $695 (and more for premium rooms). The sleeping bag space is an incredible bargain and usually goes fast, as do some of the less expensive rooms, so it's good to register early. All arrangements and registration must be made directly with Esalen (Esalen at 831-667-3005 or at, but if you have questions about the content of the workshop, please call Ellen Bass at 831-426-8006. Ellen Bass's most recent book of poems is THE HUMAN LINE, was published by Copper Canyon Press

THE BODHISATTVA'S EMBRACE: Dispatches from Engaged Buddhism's Front Lines by Alan Senauke. See website at

Johnny Sundstrom's new novel DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT is set in the desolation that became known as southern Wyoming. Martha Bradford, traveling on the Oregon Trail, is told she must discard either her cast-iron cook stove or her pianola. She has them both taken off the wagon and then refuses to go on any further For information, email the author at .


The largest unionized bookstore in America is Powell's Books ( Some people prefer shopping there to shopping at An alternative way to reach their site and support the union is via Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go directly to the [Powell's bookstore] union's benefit fund. For a discussion about Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #98 (bfrarchive96-100.html#97) and #97 (bfrarchive96-100.html#98).


If a book discussed in this newsletter has no source mentioned, try your public library or your local independent bookstore. To buy books online, I often use Bookfinder at or Alibis at Bookfinder has a feature that tells you the book price WITH shipping and handling, so you can compare what you're really going to have to pay. A lot of people whose political instincts I respect prefer to deal with the unionized bricks-and-mortar bookstore Powells online at .

Other good sources for used and out-of-print books include Advanced Book Exchange at and All Book Stores at

My latest way to get used books is through Paperback Book Swap at, a low cost (postage only) way to get rid of books and get new ones.

Please send responses and suggestions to Meredith Sue Willis at Unless you instruct otherwise, your responses may be edited silently for length, polished for grammar and spelling, and published in this newsletter.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

WV Writers 2011 Annual Writing Contest Now Accepting Submissions!

The title says it all. West Virginia Writers is now accepting submissions for the 2011 Writers Contest. Find out all necessary details at the WV Writers 2011 Annual Writing Contest webpage. You can also listen to our ContestCast 2011 Podcast to help explain some of the new categories.

Download Contest Entry Forms below

Entry Form (.doc) Entry Form (.pdf)

Student Entry Form (.doc) Student Entry Form (.pdf)