Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Master Course in Writing by Jory Sherman

 According to award-winning writer and teacher Jory Sherman, “writing is magic.” But you don’t have to be a magician to decipher the fine points of writing.   

Sherman has been a mentor and literary consultant for more than 40 years. He has taught writing from up to the university level. His poetry and short stories have been published in literary journals and commercial publications.

His novel GRASS KINGDOM was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is a recipient of the Spur Award for his novel THE MEDICINE HORN from Western Writers of America. Jory lives and writes in Pittsburg,Texas. His more than 1,000 articles and 500 short stories have been published with Doubleday, Zebra, Avon, Berkley, Walker & Co, Tor/Forge, Bantam and other publications

In the slim book, MASTER COURSE IN WRITING, Sherman shares some of his writing secrets, exercises, and examples. He begins with words of encoragement and discusses how to get started, keep going, and write to the finish. 

Topics covered include: 

The importance of titles

Setting the scene

Character names

 “Everything you need to complete your story is in the story itself.”

Let the words flow, no editing, no censorship. Danger of using flashbacks.

The DNA of storytelling.

 Hypnotic writing.


Visit Sherman’s website to find out how to purchase a copy of his latest book. 

Special Note: Next week on Donna’s Book Pub I will interview Louella Turner, CEO and publisher of High Hill Press. If you leave a comment about Sherman’s book here or about my interview with Lou Turner on Donna’s Book Pub, your name will be entered to win a copy of Sherman’s book.



Filed under How To, Non-Fiction, Writing Advice


Today’s literary birthday: Shelby Foote, American novelist and Civil War historian, born November 17, 1916.

FINDING JOY: ONE WOMAN’S JOURNEY BACK TO FAITH is an insightful and inspiring memoir that gives a personal glimpse into the life of Joy Wooderson, the daughter and granddaughter of Christian missionaries who lived and preached in South Africa.

In FINDING JOY, Wooderson gives a unique perspective into her faith, her family, her African homeland, and her journey to the United States, where she became a U.S. citizen.

The front cover, with the photo of white daisy seeking sunlight as it pokes through the parched brown earth, gives a hint of what awaits the reader inside. Chapter 1 opens with a quote from St. Augustine and begins with the author perched on top of Mount Sinai, marveling at the view and grandeur of the vista before her.

Divided into nine parts and thirty chapters, Wooderson’s memoir reads like a novel, with the end of each chapter leaving me wanting to read more.

The chapters and sections are peppered with Biblical passages from the Old and New Testaments, as well as other meaningful and contemplative quotes. The end of each chapter also contains what Wooderson calls “Pointers,” which are questions and statements that challenge readers to examine their own beliefs. The last page of each chapter also includes space for readers to record their reflections.

Wooderson’s memoir is filled with candor and clarity. She openly discusses her crisis of faith, her doubts about organized religion, and the path she took to navigate through dark days into the light.

Anyone who has struggled with their faith or questioned their belief system will find comfort, compassion and wisdom in FINDING JOY.


Filed under Inspirational, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Spiritual, Women's

Writer Mama by Christina Katz

On this day in 1875, Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the popular character Tarzan, was born in Chicago, Illinois.

Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, by Christina Katz, is the book I’ve chosen to review this week.

backtoschoolKatz also has a fantastic Writer Mama blog. During in the month of September she is giving away a book each day. So, pop on over and sign up.

Back to Katz’s  book. I won a copy of Writer Mama book over on Cathy C. Hall’s blog a while back, and I’m so happy that I did. (Thank you, Cathy!) 

Katz’s book is chock-full of writing advice and encouragement for writing moms–and grandmoms like me. In the Pep Talk section, Katz lists 10 reasons for mamas to launch their writing career. The one that appeals to me is #5: “Mamas who write set a good example for their kids.” I’m sure this applies to Grandmas as well!

The book is divided into four sections, with exercises and sidebars  with highlights included in each section:

Preparation covers the tools and attributes writers mama need. 

Practice shows how to build basic writing skills to compete with professionals.

Professionalism covers querys and interviews and includes a glossary of query terms.

Poise offers suggestions for developing skills to get your name known and how to pitch.

Even if you not a Mama, Katz’s practical advice, exercises and resources can help your writing career.  And don’t forget to visit the Writer Mama blog during the month of September. You might get lucky and win a book on writing!  Donna Volkenannt 


Filed under Non-Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing Advice

Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue William Silverman

On this date in 1965, Joanne Kathleen Rowling, better known as J.K. Rowling, was born. J.K. shares the same birthday as her famous fictional boy-wizard, Harry Potter.

fearlessconfessionsThe book I’ve chosen to discuss this week is FEARLESS CONFESSIONS, A Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue William Silverman, published by The University of Georgia Press.

Although I don’t plan to write a memoir, I found Silverman’s book fascinating. The book is filled with practical writing advice, which is relevant to all types of writing. Her writing is thorough, yet easy to understand. Throughout the book Silverman gives examples and includes writing exercises. She provides lists of informative Web sites that provide advice on writing, publishing, and promoting writing.

Some of the topics she covers in her book are: Theme, Plotting, Voice, Style and Marketing. She also gives an excellent overview of the subgenres of Creative Nonfiction. She also includes an appendix with a reading list of contemporary creative nonfiction, by topic.

In the chapter on Style, she suggests: “Avoid the ‘3As’ in writing: adjectives, adverbs, and abstractions. Rely on nouns and active verbs. . . ”

On Voice, she says: “The voice of each piece you write needs its own tone, rhythm, vocabulary, and energy.”

On August 5, as part of the WOW! Author’s Tour, Sue William Silverman will be guest blogger on my other blog, Donna’s Book Pub,

If you’ve ever wondered about “Truth in Memoir,” Silverman’s post on August 5 on is one you won’t want to miss.

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Filed under Non-Fiction, Writing Advice

A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors

On  this date, July 17, in 1889, Erle Stanley Gardner, detective writer and creator of the Perry Mason series was born.

cupaaliceThe book I’ve chosen to discuss this week is A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors, published by Adams Media and edited by the amazing Colleen Sell.  A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors is an anthology of touching true stories of courage and triumph.

One of my favorite essays is “Hidden Treasures” by Alice Muschany, a breast cancer survivor and a fellow member of the Coffee and Critique writers’ group.  Alice’s story is just one of the scores of essays in this inspirational anthology that celebrates “strength, resilency, and hope.”

In addition to publishing an inspiring anthology of stories written by courageous survivors, Adams Media donates a portion of the sales of each book to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.


Filed under Anthology, Non-Fiction, Women's

Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

Today’s famous writer’s birthday: On July 10, 1905, Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson was born. Who? Maybe the name Carolyn Keene sounds more familiar. If you grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries, thank Mildred. She is known as the first Carolyn Keene, ghost name for the popular Nancy Drew series, created by Edward Stratemeyer.

picturebooksNow, on to this week’s featured book. I’ve selected Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books: A Hands’On Guide from Story Creation to Publication (Writer’s Digest books). 

A couple weeks ago, Ann was a guest blogger on my other blog, Donna’s Book Pub, and Ann was such a gracious guest, I want to spread the word about her wonderful book. Even if you aren’t interested in writing picture books, Ann’s book can help you become a better writer.

Her book is divided into six sections, with a “What’s Next” section at the end of each chapter:

Before You Write your Story covers research and understanding the essence of picture books.

Early Story Decisions – includes, along with other suggestions, ideas for building a frame for your story and creating compelling characters. 

Structure of Your Story- What to know about creating fabulous first lines, the three-act structure and holding your story together? This section has specific how-tos. 

Language of Your Story – The two “Ss” of strong writing in this section apply to all stories. Ann also covers the importance of word count in this section.

Tying Together Loose Story Ends – Creating great titles and using a dummy board to tell you story are covered in this section.

After Your Story is Done  – Ann gives ideas on researching the market and practical tips on selling your manuscript.

The above is just a brief summary of what’s in Ann’s book. There are many additional pieces of advice and tidbits of information as well as practical, hands-on exercises.

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Filed under Children's Books, Non-Fiction, Writing Advice

Bill O’Reilly, the Man Behind the Mouth

Today, July 3, is the birthday of Franz Kafka, author of  The Metamorphosis

oreillyThe book I’ve chosen to discuss this week is A BOLD, FRESH PIECE OF HUMANITY by Fox News Commentator and Uberanchor, Bill O’Reilly. 

My husband Walt bought the book for me a couple months ago  as a Mother’s Day gift.  Walt, a Vietnam Veteran,  is very thoughtful like that, and he wanted to support the Wounded Warrior Project, which is one of the charities the generous O’Reilly supports through his book sales.  

In addition to the book, I received a Wounded Warrior tote bag. After Walt opened the package and gave me the book, right away, I began to read. First thing Walt did was to check the label inside the the tote bag.

Walt shook his head. “Made in Pakistan.” 

Despite Walt’s disappointment over where the Wounded Warrior bag was made, he is a fan of O’Reilly’s. Weekdays at 7 p.m., our two grandchildren (whom we are raising) know to keep their voices down while their Opa watches O’Reilly on TV. Walt especially likes Wednesdays, when Dennis Miller is a featured guest.

Back to the book:  A BOLD FRESH PIECE OF HUMANITY, published by Random House, is a delight. From the angelic-looking cover to the childhood and other stories, and the photos inside, it’s a very personal look at the “bold, fresh guy.”  O’Reilly explains how, while a third grade student at St. Brigid’s School in Westbury, New York, Sister Mary Lurana “was on him like a panther,” and called him “a bold fresh piece of humanity” after he made one of his “dumb remarks.”

Bold, Fresh transported me back to my own experiences in parochial grade school (Holy Name in North, St. Louis, MO) and Catholic high school (St. Alphonsus “Rock” an all girls’ school also in St. Louis). Anyone who grew up in the 50s and 60s can relate to O’Reilly’s book, especially if they attended Catholic schools and were taught by no-nonsense nuns with huge classes. Even if they did not, the conversational and candid style of O’Reilly’s writing should connect with them.

In his book, O’Reilly shares his memories of the people, places, events, and experiences that have molded his personality.  The book is a personal,  candid, and at times self-deprecating  look at the “bold fresh guy”–an insightful glimpse at Bill O’Reilly, the man behind the mouth.  Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt

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Filed under Catholic, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Politics