"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Midlife Collage Contests

Midlife Collage is looking for submissions in their free-entry contests. They run weekly, online writing contests for a cash prize. Guidelines and contest rules:

1. Entries must be written in English by a U.S. citizen or U.S resident who is at least 40 years of age.
2. Must be your own true, nonfiction short story occurring during your midlife. We define “midlife” as ages 40 – 65.
3. We suggest a length of 400 to 800 words but we will accept submissions up to 1,500 words.
4. Well-written.
5. Entertaining, enlightening, insightful, humorous, or a combination of two or more characteristics.
6. Must not be offensive, political or inappropriate, as determined by the Editor.

Multiple entries are allowed. Visit their FAQ page or the Calendar page and watch the short videos for topic ideas. For more information or to submit, please visit www.MidlifeCollage.com  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Poetic Inspiration

I enjoyed a wonderful time with friends at a writer's workshop today. One of the speaker's, Laurie Kolp, talked with us about "Poetic Inspiration".

Once upon a time, I wrote a lot of poetry - nothing great, but I enjoyed the genre very much when I was younger. Her talk reminded me how much I enjoyed poetry, and then I won a drawing for "The Crafty Poet" (seen on the right). She has a poem inside as well, (page 68 for those of you who may have a copy) and I look forward to reading the book.

Laurie has a book of her own poetry coming out next month, Upon the Blue Couch, from WINTER GOOSE PUBLISHING.  To learn more about Laurie or her book, please visit her author page: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/laurie-kolp/  or you can click on her name above to visit one of her blogs.

Have any of you read "The Crafty Poet"? Do you write Poetry?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

10 Italian Literary Hot Spots

My parents are planning a tour of Italy trip. While doing our research, I found a few literary hot spots I would love to visit.

1) Casa di Giulietta (Juliet's Home) - Verona
Perhaps you've seen the movie Letters to Juliet? So powerful is the legend of Juliet that over half a million tourists flock here every year to visit the simple courtyard and home. Many are those who leave behind layer upon layer of graffiti or written notes stuck to the walls along the lines of "Valentina, ti amo!" or who engage in the peculiar tradition (whose origin no one can seem to explain) of rubbing the right breast (now buffed to a bright gold) of the 20th-century bronze statue of a forever nubile Juliet. The curious might want to fork over the entrance fee to see the spartan interior of the 13th-century home, restored in 1996. Ceramics and furniture on display are authentic to the era but did not belong to Juliet's family -- if there ever was a Capulet family at all. The balcony was not added to the home until after 1900. Many stop their tour to pose on it.

2) La Tomba di Giulietta (Juliet's Tomb) - Verona
About a 15-minute walk south of Casa di Giulietta. The would-be site of the star-crossed lovers' suicide is found within the graceful medieval cloisters of the Capuchin monastery of San Francesco al Corso. Die-hard romantics may find this tomb, with its surely posed "sarcophagus," rather more evocative than the crowded scene at Juliet's House and worth the trip. Others will find it overrated and shouldn't bother. The adjacent church is where their secret marriage was said to have taken place. A small museum of frescoes is also adjacent.

3) Keats-Shelley House: Piazza di Spagna, 26 - Rome
The house at the bottom of the Spanish Steps (to the right if looking up at the church Trinità dei Monti) is where the Romantic poet John Keats died of tuberculosis in 1821 at the age of only 25. Keats came to Rome with the hope that the Mediterranean climate would cure him. For a month he enjoyed the city; he walked on the Via del Corso, the Spanish Steps and Monte Pincio. But his sickness soon got the better of him, and Keats died only three months after he arrived. The apartment that Keats stayed in while in Rome has become a small museum devoted to his life and the life and works of other Romantics, such as Percy Bysshe-Shelley and Lord Byron. There are thousands of Romantic texts in the woodworked and glass cabinets along the wall. Keats's death mask and a few other relics from the poet's life are on display. Standing in the room replicated to the condition when Keats died, water can be heard flowing from the Barcaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna. Perhaps this was the influence for Keats's epigraph carved into his gravestone: "Here lies one whose name is writ in water." Since Keats's death, many poets and writers have made the pilgrimage to his house and grave in the Protestant Cemetery.

4) The Protestant or Non-Catholic Cemetery: Via Caio Cestio, 6 - Rome
After Keats died he was buried in the Protestant Cemetery near the pyramid of Cestius. Back then the cemetery was small, but has since filled up with the graves of painters, writers, and musicians, among others. Keats's gravestone is among the most visited; Oscar Wilde even wrote a poem about it. Turn left after entering, and the grave is in the grassy plot behind the old wall. Seek shade under the trees in summer or sit on a bench in spring when the ground is covered with daisies. Other writers buried in the Protestant Cemetery are Romantic poet Percy Bysshe-Shelley, Italian writer Carlo Emilio Gadda, and the Beat poet Gregory Corso. Be sure check out the tomb The Angel of Grief, designed by sculptor William Wetmore Story for his wife. Copies can be found in cemeteries throughout the world.

5) Alberto Moravia's House: Lungotevere della Vittoria, 1 - Rome
Alberto Moravia was one of Italy's best-known writers of the post-war years. His apartment above the Tiber river, where he lived during the later part of his life, has been preserved as a small museum. The apartment appears as if Moravia has just left for groceries and at any moment will return, sit down at his sturdy wooden desk, put his fingers to his Olivetti typewriter, and begin to write. The books of his personal library fill the shelves. And be sure to check out the kitchen stylishly decorated in the 70s.

6) Antico Caffè Greco: Via Condotti, 86 - Rome
Off the high-end shopping street of Via Condotti is one of the oldest cafès in Italy. The writers and other artists who lived in this area—once known as the "English Quarter"—gathered here. Nickolai Gogol, George Eliot, Hans Christian Anderson, Stendhal, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe-Shelley and maybe John Keats, to name a few, sipped cappuccinos at its round tables.

7) Monte Pincio - Rome
Located above Piazza del Popolo and besides the sprawling Villa Borghese, Monte Pincio was the place to see and be seen during the evening passegiata (or walk). Henry James would sit on a bench and watch, and maybe seek out some of the characters that populate his novels, such as Daisy Miller, who also takes evening strolls here in the book of the same name. 

8) Goethe's House: Via del Corso, 18 - Rome
During Johann Wolfgang Goethe's 1786-1787 journey to Italy, he stayed in the painter Johann Tischbein's apartment above the Corso. Goethe's curiosity in Classic art was immense, and every afternoon he would go out and study some painting or statue that caught his interest. He filled the apartment with plaster casts of his favorites, which were eventually carted back to Germany when he returned. Still inside is a lovely collection of watercolors that Goethe made in the campagna and throughout Rome during his stay. Even after Goethe left, Italy and Rome were never distant from his mind. If you're interested in Goethe's impressions of Italy, pick up his Italian Journey, a surprisingly good and modern read.

9) Harry’s Bar – Venice

Once a refuge from fascism, Ernest Hemingway was a regular here (of course), but other customers included Truman Capote, Noel Coward and Orson Welles. Even today it is often visited by the cultural elite. Harry’s is known for inventing not only the Bellini (sparkling wine and peach) but beef carpaccio (raw beef). Be warned that the bar is known for being overpriced and touristy; when you dine here, you’re dining solely on history.

10) Nikolai Gogol’s House: Via Sistina 125 - Rome
Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol lived in Rome off-and-on from 1838 to 1842. There is but a plaque to commemorate this great writer’s time in Rome and the house where he finished his great work, Dead Souls. At least it’s something to honor he who has influenced the likes of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vladimir Nabokov, among others.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine Freebies!

Free downloads and reads for Valentine's!

For a sweet and short love story, try "Snowball Fight" by Beth Savoie. 

I hope you have a lovely weekend spent with a loved one or enjoying a passion. Happy Valentine's!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Five Ways to Learn About and Preserve Family History

This week marks the one year anniversary of the death of my grandmother (on my father’s side). That’s her in the picture. In the six months that followed I lost two more grandmothers (both my mom and my stepfathers mothers).

I talked about writing and editing through grief here.

Now that I’ve had six months since the passing of that third grandmother, I find I’m still spending time writing stories involving them. Nonfiction seems to be the center of my writing at the moment. I find myself remembering small details and needing to record them.

Even when I take a break from writing about them, whether I’m writing something else, or just participating in the everyday activities of life, surprising moments trigger recollections.

I often wish I had spent more time recording things while they were alive. I long to hear their own impressions and memories; tales of family heritage, coming from another country, learning a new way of life, and discovering new reasons to live. Sadly though, I never recorded the stories they shared.

I wish I had asked more questions about family, circumstances, and feelings. It’s the kind of personal knowledge that not even my parents can share, though they do share their own memories.

I’m piecing together my family’s story. I have very little information from before my great grandparents – for now. So, how do I discover which tales are true? Am I really related to Scottish royalty, was my great grandmother really a Native American, did we have Jewish ancestors, or someone in the army under Sam Houston?

Here are five steps that will help anyone researching family.
  1. Interview Parents and/or Grandparents – Any family get together is the perfect time to pay attention. Before you visit them or attend a family reunion (where multiple viewpoints are available) brainstorm a list of questions. What was it like when grandpa was growing up? What was his favorite toy? An important memory? His best friend? Did anyone enlist in the military? Live through a war? What important historical events were they alive during? Consider videotaping the conversations so you can have a visual record of your loved one’s voice and personality.
  2. Research - Visit free popular search engines such as Ancestry.com, RootsWeb.com, FamilySearch.org, or even just Google.com. Plug in first and last names of family members, and use what you learn to create a family tree with your relatives’ names, countries of origin and other fun facts.
  3. Read, Listen, Watch - Check out books or videos about the countries connected to your family history. Explore them with other family members to get their impressions. What interesting facts did you learn? Where would you want to visit, if you could? What would you like to know more about? You can even use Google Earth on the computer to take a “virtual” vacation to those places!
  4. Recreate a Family Story - Identify an interesting historical event that took place during an ancestor’s lifetime and use questions to help bring that person to life. Was she a nurse during a war? What would she have seen or heard? Was he an artist during a revolution? What might he have painted? Encourage family members to write a story, record their own memories, or create artwork based on what they know. Have them share it with the family.
  5. Host a Family Culture Day - August 1 is American Family Day, so why not create a new family tradition that incorporates what you’ve discovered? Cook a dish native to an ancestor’s country, or play a game popular during that person’s life. That would be a great day to host a family reunion or share #4.

What will or have you done to learn more about your family history?

Friday, February 7, 2014

$30 Conference for Writers

Terrebonne Parish Library presents its 11th Annual Jambalaya Writers’ Conference & Book Fair. Located in Houma, Louisiana, and held on March 22, this day-long conference hosts many noted speakers. Doors open at 7:30 am, and the last session ends at 5 pm.

I've attended this event several times in previous years. The affordable price, beautiful location, variety of speakers, and hospitality of the hosts make this one of the best conferences in my opinion.

Many of this year's participants have already confirmed, including the 2014 keynote speaker.

ADRIANA TRIGIANI is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. The author of the bestselling Big Stone Gap trilogy and the novel Lucia, Lucia, Trigiani has written the screenplay for the movie Big Stone Gap, which she will also direct. She lives in New York City, with her husband and daughter.

There are more than 15 other authors, editors, and agents scheduled to appear, including: Heather Graham, David Schwartz, Rachel Ekstrom, Nicholas Courage, David Middleton, Katie Depalma, Maggie Mae Gallagher, Roxanne St. Claire, Holly Ingraham, and Kristen Painter. For bios on a few of them: http://mytpl.org/jwc/

For the most recent information, visit their facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/jambalayawriters

To register: http://mytpl.org/wp-content/uploads/wc14_page_flyer.pdf

Have you attended this conference before? If so, what did you think?

Monday, February 3, 2014

South West Writers Competition

The 32nd Annual South West Writers International Competition is open to all original, unpublished work by English-language writers in 10 categories for novels, creative nonfiction, essay, short stories, children's picture books, and poetry.

Prizes: $300 First Place, $200 Second Place, and $150 Third Place in each of the 10 categories. Winners are selected by agents or editors unaffiliated with South West Writers in the categories of:

Mainstream/Literary novel
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller/Adventure novel
Juvenile/YA novel
Women's Fiction
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror short story
Mainstream/Literary short story
Creative Nonfiction/Memoir
Children's Picture Book

First Place winning entries in prior SWW contests may NOT be resubmitted for judging in 2014.

Visit swwcontest.com for complete rules and entry form. Entries are open from February 1 to May 1, 2014 and may be submitted after May 1 until May 15 with payment of a late fee.