Walrus Publishing, Inc.

Snapshot of Saint Louis Writers Guild Workshop for Writers

by Linda O’Connell

Author Panel

Most writer’s know that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMO), but did you know that November is also National Life Writing Month? St. Louis Writer’s Guild offered a panel presentation November 2, 2013 featuring Lauren Miller, Linda O’Connell, Jennifer Shew and Donna Volkenannt.

Linda and Donna addressed the topics of personal essay and life writing.

Jennifer and Lauren addressed the topic of NaNoWriMo.

Donna Volkenannt is a former reviewer at Book Report Network. She is also the 2012 Erma Bombeck, 1st Place contest winner. Donna, a multi-published writer, explained that goals are dreams with deadlines. She offered unique suggestions on finding topics: conversations overheard, photos, even specific calendar dates, such as All Souls Day can evoke memories and ideas.

Donna believes that the power of writing personal essay can be used to inspire, uplift and make someone laugh. Her method of writing is to write first, and proofread later. This successful essayist knows that revision is the key to success. She calls the revision process “healing your manuscript.”

Donna listed  more than a dozen tips on how to organize a personal essay: conception, conflict, clarity. candor, courage and knowing your craft and more. Donna Volkenannt knows what she’s talking about; she has over one hundred publication credits.

Donna Volkenannt blogs at http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com/.

Linda O’Connell‘s essays have been published in 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books and over 150 other publications. She began her presentation by holding up an antique pair of baby shoes. Using this visual aid she encouraged participants to take baby steps as they pursue writing their memoirs. Life writing takes many forms: journals, old quilts, pictorial displays at funerals. Old letters and  personal messages in greeting cards can be a starting point.

Linda pointed out that few people live extraordinary lives. Writing about something ordinary often leads to more in depth writing. Linda recommends using Post It Notes to jot down a memory, a word, remembered dialogue, then arrange them to form paragraphs.

Linda O’Connell blogs at http://lindaoconnell,blogspot.com.

Lauren Miller is a historical and speculative fiction writer who has participated in NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in thirty days? Yes, she insists it can be done. Ten tips to consider.

  1. Get your research in order
  2. Prepare mentally for the challenge
  3. Motivate yourself witha reward
  4. Have a support team, family/friends
  5. Go social, write/share with others
  6. Work out of your comfort zone
  7. Bend the rules (don’t use contractions to increase word count)
  8. Overshoot your daily word goal occasionally
  9. Don’t edit
  10. Let it be messy. Nothing can be ready for publication in one month.

Lauren mentioned that there are 100 small press and independently published novels that you would recognize that all started out as NaNos. Three of them have recently been optioned for films.

Lauren Miller blogs at http://www.pocketfulofprose.com.

Jennifer Shew has been a national liaison for NaNoWriMo, a non-profit organization, for eight years. She inspires others to attain their goal of writing a minimum of 1,667 words per day. NaNoWriMo.org is an international community. There is an on line database with a list of resources, experts and an events calendar listing days for Write Ins. Sachs County Library in Chesterfield will be doing an upcoming lock in for local NaNo writers.

Jennifer calls herself a pantser; she writes by the seat of her pants. Other writers are plotters. Writing does not have to be a solitary venture, and socializing with other NaNo writers will challenge you to compete and eventually complete your first draft. Jennifer encourages writers to write the “zero draft” first to get the words on the page. She insists there are no NaNo police. You just have to do it…your way. Who knows? With a one to two hours investment per day, you, too could submit your novel to NaNaWriMo 2013.

St. Louis Writer’s Guild will be doing Write Ins on Thursdays in November. Check them out on Facebook for more details.


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