Copyright March 2016 St. Louis Writers Guild – All rights reserved
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Photo of The Novel Neighbor and cover design by Brad R Cook
T. W. Fendley
Brad R. Cook
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[In this issue
by David Alan Lucas
by Ryan Freeman
by Jennifer Stolzer
From the President’s Desk: Facing Demotivation
By David Alan Lucas
Did you get another rejection email? Did you set aside a block of time to write; only to have it shredded by people who have no respect for it? Did you stare at a blank screen, only to jump on social media and discover the reasons you never want to be a telepath and know what is going on inside your friend’s head? Did you set goals you thought you were achieving, only to learn you made absolutely no progress?
This is the hard part of being a writer, or even of just being alive. This is where people walk away and say, “Forget it.” This is where the sense of personal failure creeps in, not only into your heart or mind, but into your soul. This is where the battle is joined between the drive inside of you that says you were given a talent for a reason and the internal and external naysayers who hammer you back down into the peg-hole you are trying to climb out of.
How do you face the onslaught of demotivation? Perhaps you should read a book or three from motivating life coaches. Search your iPhone or Android phone—there has to be an app for that. Maybe a Google search will pull up something. Those all may be limited in helpfulness when it comes to finding ideas, or at least a false sense of comfort, because they are external to you. Regardless of the reason you have come to this art, the motivation comes from within.
Someone may have inspired you to write. You may have been patted on the back and told you should have been a writer. Those external motivators only breathed upon the internal embers. When faced with demotivation, you have to reach inside of yourself, as some mythical god or goddess, and breathe back on those same embers. You have to stoke the fire that motivated you in the first place until its light is so bright, so comfortingly warm, so tall in your soul, that it chases back demotivation’s cold, icy touch. You have to become that flame. Let your heart, your voice, your soul, become a beacon to those who don’t have your gift or talent and are lost on the rocky shores of life with no other way to a safe port except for your art, your writing—be it serious or an escape from the harsh night of everyday life.
How do you face demotivation? By taking the passionate fire within you and setting the demotivation ablaze until it is a puff of smoke fading into nothingness.
Why I Write
By Ryan P. Freeman
I don’t care if anyone doesn’t read this.
Well, that’s a bit of a lie — just a touch, though.
Why do I write? Why do I want to write?
Part of it comes from pride. The idea, thought, notion of being able to claim the title and be called a writer — or even better — an Author, calls me. Beckons me. It’s easy to want these things when they’re already done, or when you say you’re working on some creative project. But as for the actual doing, that’s hard.
When I was little, the library in my elementary school was magic. I actually had trouble learning how to read well, and so libraries were a bit of a mystery for me back then. Oh sure, I loved being read to, or adventuring through the innumerable picture-book tales… but I was embarrassed about not being able to read like everyone else. It frustrated me — and publicly shamed me in front of my other classmates and friends. I was in first and second grade, so it was kind of a big deal (and it still is, I think).
I owe an undying debt of gratitude to Mrs. Yorth, my second-grade teacher, for taking the extra time, after school, to help me learn how to read. My school, River Grove Elementary, also put me into a specialized reading class. Looking back on it all, I feel like I had my own Marvel origin story in that class… I don’t really know what they did to me, but once I got out I was reading at a high school level — and soon after, at a college level.
I remember the day, sometime not long after I was out of that special class, that I walked into the library. To this very day, I can’t remember why I walked in there… because I’d usually pass it by… maybe it was a Scholastic book fair or something, and I was drawn in by the bright pictures. Who knows? But I remember walking into a place where only a second before had been like an empty room full of absolutely nothing, and then suddenly it had been transformed without flash or bang. I was now standing in a vast treasure trove — unexplored and all mine. I could look at endless row after endless row and know what I was looking at. I could read any book I chose (or not). I think this ability is lost on most people. The simple wonder — the marvel — of being able to do as you please, when you please… I also experienced this wonder with words, as I suffered from severe stuttering during that time in my life, too.
To get into the computer lab, full of all those glowing green-screen Macintosh computers, we had to stand in line along this library back row, which just happened to be where most of the fantasy was shelved. Since my last name begins with ‘F,’ I was sort of jumbled somewhere in the middle of the line. So as we waited for the Powers-That-Were to do whatever it is that they did back in the early ‘90s, I would stare at the fantasy titles and wonder. It’s funny. Usually I kind of don’t like how I am generally shorter than other people, again thanks to my bout with childhood leukemia. The same disease that stunted my growth had also been involved with scarring my vocal chords, as well as affecting my critical thinking. So when it comes to bookshelves, the first thing I generally see is anything about midway up or slightly lower. I see the buried authors first. I remember seeing the Susan Cooper’s (The Dark is Rising series); I saw the Peter S. Beagle’s (The Last Unicorn); and the Patricia C Wrede’s (The Dealing With Dragons series).
People will find your books. They will. My self-pride about writing and authorhood is just full of itself. The right people will find your work at the right time, and in the right place. You will probably never hear about it. You will most likely never know about it. But good stories have a curious way of transcending time and space. They slip out into the world and nestle into strange hands in unimaginable places. I should know — I was one of those readers. To this very day, there are still lost bookish treasures I’m still desperately hunting for — still gems that gleam in the darkness of obscurity, waiting once more to be reclaimed.
Good books are treasures. They are invitations sent out into the lost parts of the vast world. They are keys to secret kingdoms, with hidden gates tucked away in unlikely places (like the threshold of an elementary school computer lab). So write on — who knows what will come of your next good book.
Workshops for Writers: Human Fly-fishing with Reggie Van Stockum
By Jennifer Stolzer
Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr. knows a thing or two about adaptability. In addition to his two published novels, and , and multiple short stories, Reggie acts, plays guitar, teaches, practices environmental law as a private attorney, researches historical phytogeography and biology, and has earned doctorates in both biology and law. Despite all of this, Reggie is the first to tell you that there is more in this world to learn.
“When you got out of college, you became dumb as a stick. You need to enter the university of the marketplace to get an education,” Reggie told the Writer’s Guild at its March 5th workshop. The business of writing requires three basic steps: write the book, publish the book, and market the book. The last element is the hardest. “My books are all up on Amazon and on Kindle and I have short stories up as well, so I’m well positioned, but this is what I learned; my books sell when I sell them. If I don’t sell them, they don’t sell. That’s where human fly-fishing comes in.”
What is human fly-fishing? When an angler goes to fly-fish, they put their lure on the end of a long line and cast repeatedly to tempt the fish. When a fish shows interest, you snag and you tease, letting out slack and reeling in until the fish is in your net. “All I need to human fly-fish is for someone to look my direction,” Reggie said. “They don’t need to look me in the eye, just my direction. Once they’re looking my direction, I can fish ‘em.”
One trick to lure people is presentation. To demonstrate, Reggie brought his large book cover posters with him to the workshop and laid his table the way he would in a convention, including books, short stories, and artwork. He also brought an assistant, Kevin Sheridan, who sat near his table wearing a crown on his head. “I send [Kevin] out, acting stupid and goofy, then get him to come sit next to me.” Reggie said. “People will come and look at HIM to find out what HE’S about.” That’s when Reggie starts a conversation and hopefully makes a sale.
Reggie has earned his sales chops as a private attorney responsible for both prosecuting cases and engaging new clients. “I learned I could read people and I learned how to approach people so that they like me.” Sales work is the equivalent of reeling-in in fly-fishing. “I don’t need them to come up to the table,” Reggie said. “People are innately shy and moving to the table is an aggressive behavior. Also they don’t want to get sold. You gotta fish for them.”
Reggie has plenty of fishing tactics he applies once interest is hooked. Sometimes it’s literally a fishing line. “I do really well at comic book conventions. When people walk by I shout, ‘Look! Real Words!’ It’s like I hit them with a 2×4. Its not because I have words, it’s because I’m talking to them.” At Archon 2015, the aisles between tables were wide and people walked by without looking. “I can pitch them that far away, but I’d have to yell, and that’s rude,” Reggie said. “So I came up with the line; ‘That’s a bag!’ It is so weird that it stops you, and you turn, and then I can start my shtick. The logic is really great; if you have a bag you can put a book in it.”
Another tactic he uses is hardbacks. Often considered the realm of the traditional publishing machine, hard-cover books are expensive to produce, ship, and sell. “You know why I sell them?” Reggie asked the group. “Because you don’t!” When hand-selling, Reggie uses his hardback copies not only for look but also for feel. “When I’m selling my book [to customers] I look them in the eye and I give them the book.” He demonstrated on members of the audience, presenting a hardback copy of one of his novels and encouraging them to not only admire the artistic cover, but to test the weight of it. This tactic got the book into his readers’ hands more often than it didn’t.
Some caught on to his method, however, and refused to fall for the weight-testing trick. That was when Reggie pulled out the fishing reel. “People are cheap,” Reggie said. “They don’t want anything that’s a not a deal. I can make a book for six bucks and sell it for fifteen, so I say ‘it’s a today-only sales price because I gotta move some books’ and I drop it down to thirteen to see what the cheap guy will do.” If the discount isn’t enough, he can drop the price further, or throw in a bonus or bundle deal. “If I get down to ten dollars it’s gonna be hard to walk away.”
Sometimes a discount isn’t possible. At events like the Kentucky Book Faire, Reggie was required to price his books with no room left to bargain. Thankfully that is not the only lure in his tackle box. “If there’s anything I’m going to leave you with, its one of the most powerful tools to sell your book,” Reggie said. “The blurb on the back.”
He demonstrated again, offering one of his hardbacks to a member of the audience. This time, when he presented the book, he turned it over to reveal the blurb. “Read that, it’ll tell you what it’s about!” For this reason, blurbs should be given respect. Make sure they are concise and descriptive, but catchy with a great hook. Reggie recommends one solid paragraph. “If there’s a line break, it’s an exit place. Don’t do that.” The same goes for quotes and recommendations. Unless you are marketing toward a specific group of people, the average reader won’t know whom the professionals providing the quotes are, and therefore they won’t be moved to buy. “Forget the greatest writers in the world on the back of your book,” Reggie said. “Get a blurb. Sell them over.”
Most of the time, people will read the blurb because it’s rude not to. Once they read it, they’ll find something they like and end up buying the book. “That’s exactly what happens at my table,” Reggie said. “They read it and they’ll give me an honest response after they read it, and that will get us talking.” This trick is Reggie’s biggest sales point, because when the person reads the blurb, they become interested – they become human – and Reggie becomes human, too. “They realize they share a similar interest with me, and by the time we’re done talking, they like the fact that I like them, and that I’m selling books. They like the fact that I talked to them, and they’ll walk off with a book.” Of course all this personal attention limits the amount of books Reggie can sell. “I can sell maybe six books an hour,” Reggie estimates, “but good sales people are genuine, and I want us to leave the table as friends.”
One of the common sins authors commit, according to Reggie’s fly-fishing model, is not to slack the line. “You all under-price your books.” Reggie announced. “It cheapens the book, it cheapens you, and it leaves you no room to sell.” He prices his hard-bound books at $30 specifically because it gives him some slack he can then reel in his customer with. “If I knock it down to twenty bucks I still have six dollars profit, but the other person only sees the difference between twenty and thirty.” Of course some consider twenty a high price for a book, so Reggie throws in one of his printed short stories – “five bucks on Amazon!” –, which he keeps hidden behind his table. It is hard for the customer to say ‘no’ because they get something for free and at a discount. “When I sell a copy [of my book], even if I have paperback, they’re going to buy hardback, and then they’ll buy the other hardback, too, because I’m going to make it very painful to walk away.”
It’s easier to cast your line if the aisle between tables is short. Reggie talks nonstop to get people’s attention. If they try to leave he can draw them back with his fishing tactics. “I’ll say something to them to get their attention, and if people are still trying to leave, I’ll say, ‘Look, I’ve got artwork!’ and hand it to them. That’s human fly-fishing right there.”
Reggie’s artist is Steven P. Eilers, a fellow Kentuckian who specializes in high-impact ink and paint illustrations. Steven and Reggie have worked together on all of Reggie’s books, including his short stories, developing several pieces for each volume to be printed alongside the text. In addition to Steven’s striking cover illustrations displayed as banners, Reggie keeps a collection of Eiler’s prints visible on his display table to draw possible readers and keep them interested in the table. “My work is unique, not just because of my writing, but because Steve Eilers has artwork in it,” Reggie said. “Don’t skimp! Find an artist! Start a relationship!”
A question rose from the audience – doesn’t the fly-fishing model interfere with sales from bookstores and online? “Being in a bookstore is just not magical,” Reggie replied. “I’ll have book signings and place some of them there … If I’m selling a book at a bookstore, I discount! If I can’t discount, I can’t sell.” Even if a book is listed in a catalog through publishers like IngramSpark, it is still the author’s job to push the book to both readers and storeowners. “I don’t want to be at bookstores,” Reggie said. “I want to be at science fiction fantasy cons.”
As for online sales, Reggie confirmed that while his print books are still listed on Amazon, he rarely sells them there, but that doesn’t mean his sales are hurting. Instead, his online sales rely mostly on Kindle and ebooks. “With Kindle I can reach enough people, and you can do promotions and give them away for free. I don’t think it hurts my Internet sales at all because I wouldn’t reach that market.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to promote yourself as an author. It took a long time of self-promoting before Reggie felt comfortable doing it. “I thought when I started my legal career that if I was good at what I did, I would become known for that and my career would be secure. It is not necessarily true. Those that say that ‘the cream always rises’ are those who are working the network behind you to get ahead of you.” It might take a while to get over the discomfort, but when authors don’t self-promote, they prevent their work from reaching their readers. “Self promote,” Reggie said simply. “It’s healthy and good.”
Of course, becoming your own salesman does come with a price. “In the last twenty-five years I’ve spoken publicly, I’ll have a form come back with comments. There are good comments but there’s always one person that doesn’t like it,” Reggie said. “They don’t like the way I look or the way I talk or the confidence I exude. I don’t care if you’re an angel from heaven, there’s a certain amount of people who will be turned off by how you act, and there’s nothing you can do about that. You just have to accept it. If you don’t, you won’t find the group of people who will enjoy your company.”
Hand-selling books is not an easy enterprise. It takes a lot of patience, just like real fishing. Remember when you’re out peddling to bring a proper lure – be it artwork, a compelling blurb, a good line, or an assistant – and be willing to adapt to the potential customer. Some need more slack than others to net, others need a strong reel, use every trick you know and be creative. Reggie developed his strategy through hard work and experience. In his words, “no matter who you are and where you think you are in the university of the marketplace, remember that even a hippie growing tomatoes hydroponically can have a very successful career in a very competitive field.”
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
It’s as easy as
Workshops for Writers
First Saturday of every month (except holiday weekends)
10 a.m. to Noon at the Kirkwood Community Center
Station Open Mic
Second Tuesday of every month
7-9 p.m. at the Kirkwood Amtrak Station
SLWG Authors Series
Third Thursday of every month
Query for “SLWG Authors Series” on YouTube or check the Members’ Room on our website, .
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 reviews books quarterly for the Historical Novels Review and has a fifteen-year background in library science. She has over fifty nonfiction reviews and articles in print and is the Director of Communications for the St. Louis Writers Guild. Lauren spends her free time enjoying period films, gaming, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by animals. Visit Lauren @midwest_maven on Twitter, Facebook and .
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.
With special thanks to this issue’s contributor:
Ryan P. Freeman is a fellow adventurer. 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. His debut high fantasy epic, The Phoenix of Redd, Volume I: Rienspel, will be published late 2016. For more on Ryan and Rienspel, visit
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 March 2016 edition features a report by Jennifer Stolzer on the Guild's March 5th workshop presented by Ronald "Reggie" Van Stockum Jr., and an essay entitled "Why I Write" by Ryan Freeman.