Copyright January 2017 St. Louis Writers Guild – All rights reserved
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“Old Courthouse, St. Louis 1862”, Wikimedia Commons.
Cover design by Brad R. Cook
T. W. Fendley
Brad R. Cook
The Scribe is published monthly digitally by the Saint Louis Writers Guild with an annual print issue. The editorial staff invites Guild members to submit original submissions of poetry, short stories, or articles about writing (4,000 words or less) for publication in this magazine. The Scribe is promoted to more than 1,000 people on our mailing list. Submissions should be sent by the first of each month to -- put SCRIBE in the subject line.
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[In this issue
by David Alan Lucas
by Terri Luckey
by Gerry Mandel
by Ryan P. Freeman
by Lauren Miller
From the President’s Desk: Finding Inspiration in Pictures
By David Alan Lucas
Every writer finds inspiration in different ways. Some authors find that the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is too low of a word count as they use that picture to launch a novel. Pictures can be powerful and show us things that we may never experience. They can help us connect with our past. They can help us connect with other cultures and other locations.
In the American Civil War, photographs for the first time brought the horrid devastation of war into the civilian consciousness in a way that sketches and woodcut stamps never could. Those photos, primitive by today’s standards, sparked the human understanding and imagination in a way that most people of the day would not have expected. In today’s world, television, newspapers, magazines, and social media have augmented that experience.
It is that experience that can help stimulate our imagination and the stories we can write. On a personal note, I have often played a game with my imagination while looking at a picture. I challenge myself to take a picture and tell myself at least five different stories about the same picture. This game can be used to as a way to exercise the imagination or as a way to break a writer’s block and conquer the scary blank page.
Are There Too Many Authors?
By Terri Luckey
Does competition hurt us?
A couple of weeks ago, an organizer from one of the holiday fairs I’d signed up to do called me and asked if I’d mind if they let another author come. They usually try to limit it to one vendor from each industry. I told them to let them come.
Last night there was an author open house at the St. Charles County Library and we had 100+ area authors participating and selling books there. Wow, who knew we had so many talented writers in the area? It was fun. I really enjoyed talking to them and learning about their books. I didn’t hear one complaint about all the competition. Quite the opposite. They were helpful and wanted to share advice and strategies.
But in the past, I have heard a few authors and some publishers say the market is flooded and we have too many authors.
I don’t agree. I think competition is healthy. It makes us strive to write better so our books will stand out. My books are unique, but even for those that write similar stories, each author will write in their own voice which is shaped by their individual experiences, so they’re still very different from one another.
Last night, I was interviewed and they asked me what tips I would pass on to someone who was interested in becoming an author. That was easy. I answered that they should get involved with a writer’s group. That’s what I did. Mine was an on-line critique group and without them, I’d never have come this far. Three years later, I still rely on them for advice. There have been a ton of authors who have helped me along the way, and I’m really grateful for all of them.
And I don’t know any authors who don’t read. I have sold books to several. So as far as I’m concerned, the more authors, the merrier. I’ll scoot over, share a table, and enjoy the time we spend together.
What do you think? Are there too many authors?
Terri Luckey currently resides in Swansea, Illinois, with her husband and dog, a Border collie, Jazzy. She’s lived in several other states including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Texas. No matter where she lives, a few things remains constant–one is the thrill of exploring a new world with beloved characters when she reads a good piece of fiction. Terri hopes you experience the same with her stories.
Luckey attended Black Hawk College where she graduated in Journalism with honors. Her experience includes writing for a variety of media: television promotional spots, radio commercials scripts, news stories, and advertisements. Terri’s job titles have included Managing Editor, News Editor, Reporter, and Ad Pagination at newspapers, Continuity Director, and Advertising Script Writer for a radio station. Her post-apocalyptic trilogy, Kayndo, is available on Amazon.
Unforgettable Characters from an Unforgettable Character
By Gerry Mandel
The following is a true story. It begins on Hollywood Boulevard in 1919 and continues across almost a century to today. It is about one of movie’s greatest stars, a renowned restaurant, a novel, a maître d’, and – of importance for this article – writing fiction.
In November of this year, my wife and I went to LA for a few days to spend time with our daughter and son. While there, I planned to have dinner at my favorite LA restaurant. Musso & Frank Grill, which opened in 1919, still serves lunch and dinner at its original location, 6667 Hollywood Boulevard, and remains popular for locals and tourists. One of its most devoted customers throughout the 1920s and ’30s was Charlie Chaplin. He had a favorite booth, by the main entrance and window looking out onto Hollywood Boulevard. Charlie ate there frequently, along with many of Hollywood’s elite. And that’s where this story begins.
I wrote a novel a few years ago about Chaplin; it included scenes at Musso & Frank. I made it a point to go there whenever I was in LA producing commercials. So dinner there on my recent trip was mandatory. We got lucky – we were seated at the Chaplin booth, as I had requested.
What does all this have to do with writing, you may ask? It has to do with the maitre d named Bobby Caravella, who I met that night. Of course the meal and service were first-class. I was delighted to find that nothing had slipped in the fifteen years since I’d been there. Delicious meals, impeccable service. I also found that Bobby was a very likable guy, with a contagious smile, easy to talk to. He also has a bit of a New York toughness and streetwise attitude about him that was appealing and also aroused my curiosity. So I told him about my novel and scenes at Musso’s, and that I wanted to send him a copy. Turns out Bobby is also a writer. He told me he writes short stories and wanted me to read them, get my opinion. We exchanged addresses – both email and snail – and a few days later I was back in St. Louis.
I mailed him my novel, but his email containing four of his short stories arrived sooner. I read his stories. They were filled with marvelous detail, sparkling language, intriguing situations. Most of all, however, where I saw his strength was in his characters. Bobby has a solid grasp on what makes a character interesting to the reader. These were not “types.” I could see his men and women clearly, felt I either knew them or had met them. I wanted to know more about them. Bobby’s stories were, to be honest, good first drafts. My comments on his stories for him: “You need to enlarge the stories, bring more detail to the proceedings, don’t be in a rush to get to the end, dig deeper into what makes each person tick.” I told him to take a look at other elements of making a short story work, such as keeping it focused on a main character – a must, I believe, for short stories. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “Every sentence must do one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.”
His characters so intrigued me, were so real, I asked him to tell me more about himself. He did. Bobby has a background and life journey that would make a compelling book. Briefly: His parents came to the US from Italy after WWI (The Great War). Bobby was born in Manhattan, had one year of college, and tried his hand at acting and film production, eventually found steady work in the nightclub circuit. He says he was a “Social Behavioral Engineer,” aka a bouncer. He was a bartender at the famous Sardie’s in Times Square. He ran popular dance clubs. He moved to the West Coast; worked in restaurants up and down the coast, eventually found a home at Musso and Frank.
About his writing. He learned a valuable lesson through time and distance. When he lived in NYC, he wrote about pirates and desert islands and spies. “But nothing rang true,” he says. When he got to California, he started writing about New York and “things fell into place.” He says all the stories and characters are real, some of them combined into singular events or people. Of course he changes the names for legal reasons. Then he adds this marvelous thought: “The first thing you learn in my neighborhood is, what you don’t know you can’t testify to.”
One of my favorite books on writing is “The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction” by Barnaby Conrad and the staff of the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference, published in 1990. In the chapter titled “Making your Characters Work for You,” the following advice is given:
“The characters you create must earn their way at all times or they do not belong in your novel, short story, or any of the dramatic formats. After they have gained admission, characters must be watched closely, even suspiciously, to make sure they don’t take their status for granted, or try to lead a life of leisure.
“Nothing can interfere more with the procession of dramatic events in a story than characters who get along well.”
That explains why conflict is so important in your story. It keeps the reader involved, wondering what will happen next. And that depends on your characters. Yes, story is important. But it’s moved ahead by the people you create. Bobby knows how to create people whose lives are filled with conflict, both inner and outer. He “knows” these people and, therefore, has the foundation for riveting stories.
I don’t know when I’ll get to LA and Musso & Frank again, or what Bobby will do with his stories – the ones I read or others that he has yet to write. All I know is that both events are worth anticipating, for me, and I’ll be waiting to see “what happens next.”
Gerry Mandel is a freelance writer, having had a career with national advertising agencies as writer/producer/creative director. His short stories and non-fiction pieces have appeared in various literary publications, and four of his plays have been produced by area theatrical companies. His novel, “Shadow and Substance: My Time with Charlie Chaplin,” was published in 2010. His documentary on the Lewis and Clark sculpture on the St. Louis riverfront won an international award in 2008. He taught writing and production at Webster University in St. Louis. He is currently working on a play about Chaplin, Hitler, “The Great Dictator” and Hollywood in the 1930’s.
He writes two blogs: “Time with Charlie Chaplin” and “Hey You Hoser,” on blogspot.com, and produces video biographies. He lives in Kirkwood, Missouri, with his wife, Mary Lee, and Lexi, their golden retriever.
Writing: Craft, Skill, or Art?
By Ryan P. Freeman
Writing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
It’s not because it’s particularly difficult to put one word in front of the other. It’s because writing is both an art and a craft. Let me explain:
When you’re learning a craft, it’s all about skill. This is where your natural ability and talent hit the looming walls of technique, style, and form. Now, believe you me, I’m the first person to balk at all of that. If we’ve ever met, you know I take pleasure in thumbing my nose at craft… until I began realizing just how much good craft is the backbone to Voice. It was after I read Ursula K Leguin’s when I began realizing how so many authors’ written voices I loved were poignant by what they were saying AND by how they said it.
Good craft gets your words out on paper. Excellent craft immerses readers into the story. Write enough, and we discover we each have a voice of our own and a Story to tell (see C.S. Lewis’ , for more on this). But in order to tell our stories well, we need to commit to practicing how we tell them.
I think the first step is to realize you have your own unique learning style (and/or combination). When it comes to how we learn, most people use a mix of Verbal, Visual, or Kinesthetic – but other ways, exist, as well:
I also found how by joining a community (or two) of other dedicated and talented writers, such as the , immersing myself in resources from various pros and experts in what interests me (like , for example), my technical ability to write critically and accurately is steadily improving.
But then there’s the Artist-Side.
Take all of the rules and regulations – all the tips, tricks, disciplines, and everything else – and stow them away in a spare closet for some other time. Your writing flows out as an extension of your Living. I know you’re busy reading these words… but for a moment, just take a deep breath. Breathe. Relax. Quit worrying about those worries. – Adulting will always be there for you. It’s you we’re talking about now. The Artist-side of writing comes from how your heart is feeling. It’s so easy to focus on goals and forget about what really matters (not what you think ought to matter, as content or whatever else).
One of my favorite authors of all-time, , once exclaimed how our rallying cry ought to be ‘More Life!’ We don’t wear down and die because of death, but because of lack of Life and liveliness. We need more opportunities for Living – whether it’s adopting a dog from the pound or taking an impromptu drive to Canada on a whim. Man was not meant to dwell in exhaustive tedium, bound behind an office desk or behind the counter somewhere. Somewhere inside, we rebel against this notion.
What does this have to do with writing?
It’s a Zen-Master approach to not only writing better, but living better (as if the two were somehow separate and distinct). By living fuller, we write out of strength and joy – passion.
“There is nothing to writing,” Hemmingway once penned, “all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Echoing the spirit of that immortal film,
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
We write because it spills from our souls. We see the world, thus – or are given this glimmering image of what could be, in some far-away place – and then set pen to paper to make it be.
Write because it’s what you do.
When I was little, I played with Legos. Each day after school, I would go home and up into my room and build and build. I’d build castles and shipwrecks – spaceships and great feats of engineering (I thought, anyways). I’d chow down on a bowl of cereal, have the radio or TV on in the background, just enough to occupy my higher-brain functions, and build stories. To this very day, I’m still hunting for the right stories – which once bubbled out of my imagination, through my fingers, and up into brick-built worlds around me. And while my collection is now stored away in my basement, awaiting a new child to one day discover its marvelous secrets, one thing is certain: I’m still telling stories.
Ryan P. Freeman is a fellow adventurer and fantasy author. After miraculously surviving childhood cancer and several near-death experiences, he launched into the world of AM talk radio, hosting his own live program out of Albuquerque. Ryan is a former International Red Cross guest speaker, Pastor, and medieval-enthusiast who loves sampling craft-beers and is an unapologetically proud kilt-wearer. In his down time, his interests range from exploring real-world pan-mythology, survivalist camping, and copious video gaming. For more on Ryan, check out
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A Holiday Open House and the YWA Presentation
By Lauren Miller
On Saturday, Dec. 3, the St. Louis Writers Guild (SLWG) hosted its annual Young Writers Awards (YWA) presentation ceremony and holiday party. Winners in each division were invited to read their work and stay afterward for a potluck of treats provided by Guild members. This meeting was the last event at the Kirkwood Community Center, before our monthly Saturday workshops move to The Lodge Des Peres (1050 Des Peres Rd, Des Peres, MO 63131), so it was definitely bittersweet. The SLWG congratulates all of the winners on their talent, and we look forward to your submissions in next year’s contest!
In the 4th – 5th grade division:
1st Place – “The Dolphin Story” by Nidhi Aradhyula
2nd Place – “Battle of the Dragon” by Tamsin John
3rd Place – “The Mysterious Planet” by Avery Mattingly
1st HM – “Something Missing, Something Found” by Gwen Johnson
2nd HM – “Adventure” by Neha Patlu
6th – 8th grade division
1st Place – “The Adventures of Sir Up” by Gummy Rizer
2nd Place – “The Shadow Outside” by Julia Pfeiffer
3rd Place – “The Pirate Ship” by Riya Aradhyula
1st HM – “The Creature” by Ciara Reichart
2nd HM – “Hand in Hand with Death” by Taylor Noelle Johnson
3rd HM – “The Early Bird gets the Wormhole” by Haley Brinker
If you know a teacher of one of these grades who may be interested in having their class participate in next year’s YWA contest, please direct them to contact SLWG on our website at Our annual short story contest just ended last month so the next contest we will host is our Deane Wagner Poetry Contest, which opens April 1. Check our website for more details.
For the latest information on poetry events in the St. Louis, MO area, visit the .
Second Friday Notes, second Friday of each month, 7 p.m., at Whole Foods Town & Country, Clayton Road just west of Highway 141
RIVER STYX. Third Mondays, 7:30 p.m., Tavern of Fire Arts, 313 Belt Ave. riverstyx.org/events.
POETRY AT THE POINT, 4th Tuesday of the month, at Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Ave. Read their ezine at
Sheila Nolan Whalen Reading Series at SLU, 221 N. Grand Ave., Dubourg 409.
Tuesdays at 4 p.m.
CHANCE OPERATIONS on the last Monday of each month at Tavern of the Arts, 313 Belt Ave., just off Pershing, between Union and DeBaliviere. 7:30 p.m. Open mic follows featured poets.
EVERY WEDNESDAY open mic for poetry and music at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios, 2500 Sutton in Maplewood (2 blocks N. of Manchester). Great food and beverages. Open mic, 8 until around 11 p.m.
GOODY HOUSE, 7 p.m., fourth Thursdays at Art Marketplace, 2028 S. 12th Street. Featured poets.
R_SPACE. Last Saturday of the month, Lenny Smith and friends at 2 p.m.
ST. LOUIS WRITERS GUILD open mic for prose and poetry, second Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m., Kirkwood Train Station, Argonne Drive, just west of Kirkwood Road. Allow time to find parking.
ADDITIONAL OPEN MICS at The Wolf, (every Tuesday), Legacy Books & Café (every Friday), The Historical Crossings (every other Tuesday), Shameless Grounds (Wednesdays at 7), Venice Café (Mondays at 9)
A Quick Guide to St. Louis Writers Guild Events
Our Workshops for Writers Has Moved Locations!
First Saturday of every month (except holiday weekends). 10 a.m. to Noon at The Lodge at Des Peres (1050 Des Peres Rd., Des Peres, MO 63131)
From Our Website:
No matter which direction you come from on I-270, exit onto West Manchester Road. Take the exit on the right to Des Peres Rd. If you are heading on Manchester Rd. East, then the exit onto Des Peres Rd. is on the right-hand side. The Lodge has plenty of parking, and the workshop room is to the left of the information desk, and on the same floor.
St. Louis Writers Guild has enjoyed its time at the Kirkwood Community Center, and looks forward to hosting authors and other industry professionals at this new location.
We’ll see you at The Lodge!
Station Open Mic
Second Tuesday of every month
7-9 p.m. at the Kirkwood Amtrak Station
Brad R. Cook, author of the young adult steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles (Treehouse Publishing Group). A former co-publisher and acquisitions editor for Blank Slate Press, he is a member of SCBWI, and currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as President. A founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers, he can be heard weekly as a panelist on Write Pack Radio. A cover designer since 2013, he also creates posters, bookmarks, and other marketing materials. Find more @bradrcook on Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr.
T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author of historical fantasy and science fiction for adults and young adults, including Zero Time (2011) and The Labyrinth of Time (2014). She’s a founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers. Her short stories are available on Kindle and Audible. When she’s not writing, T.W. explores the boundaries of consciousness through and shamanism. twfendley.com
Steven W. Langhorst is a life-long resident of St. Louis with an insatiable hunger for the facts and trivia of St. Louis history. He is a retired elementary school principal who still serves education as a mentor and consultant focusing on leadership. Steven has dabbled in poetry and photography since his youth and still plans to publish a book of poems and photographs as well as a memoir of his years at principal. Besides holding membership in the St. Louis Writers Guild he also proudly holds a membership in the Professional Tour Guides Association of St. Louis. Steven also contributed to the design of the new St. Louis Writers Guild logo.
David Lucas is the President of St. Louis Writers Guild, a published fiction short story author and poet. He has a Master’s Degree in Management from Webster University. For two years, David has been the host and producer of Write Pack Radio (WPR), a podcast with a panel of authors exploring the changing writing industry. In 2016, David decided to take his experience in podcasting and his love for radio dramas and start Winding Trails Media, which will produce podcast audio dramas beginning in the fall of 2016 as well as continuing WPR podcast.
Lauren Miller is the Director of Communications for the St. Louis Writers Guild, and she reviews books quarterly for the Historical Novels Review. She has a fifteen-year background in library science and has over fifty nonfiction reviews and articles in print. Lauren likes to spend her free time discovering new reads, games, period films, and be surrounded by dogs. To read more about Lauren, visit her blog at
Jennifer Stolzer is an author and illustrator living and working in St. Louis, MO. She graduated from Webster University with a degree in digital media and animation and uses this skill set to create bright and engaging characters. In addition to illustrating books for clients, Jennifer writes and illustrates original work, serves as secretary for the St. Louis Writers Guild, and commentates on the weekly writing podcast Write Pack Radio. See more of Jennifer’s work at , as well as Twitter, tumblr, and Facebook.
For more than a decade, The Scribe has been the mainstay for communicating with members of the St. Louis Writers Guild. It began as a way to showcase the organization and share insights into the publishing world. Back issues give a wonderful record of the Guild. The Scribe is now available to everyone, not just members. It features stories, poems, and essays from our members, as well as information about our events, most of which are open to the public. The January 2017 edition features a message from our Guild President; three articles on writing by Terri Luckey, Gerry Mandel and Ryan P. Freeman; and coverage of our December holiday party by Lauren Miller.