Category Archives: Writing Advice

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

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

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

Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds by George Singleton

June 25 – Today is the birthday of George Orwell (pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair). In high school, his novels  Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were required reading.

PepTallks_BIGHow appropriate is it that the book I’ve chosed for this week, PEP TALKS, WARRNINGS & SCREEDS: INDISPENSABLE WISDOM AND CAUTIONARY ADVICE FOR WRITERS, published by Writer’s Digest Books, is written by another George: George Singleton.

If you’ve been writing for awhile, most likely you have several writing or reference books on your shelf. I certainly do. The Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Government Printing Office Style Manual, The Gregg Reference Manual, On Writing Well, On Writing, Bird by Bird, Self Editing for Fiction Writers, On Becoming a Novelist, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular–those are a few on my shelf.

So, you may be wondering: Why do I need (or want) another book about writing?  Well, how about reading a book that is encouraging, gives sound advice, and puts a smile on your face?  Singleton’s book combines wit, wisdom, and humor about the art, craft, etiquette, and business of writing in bite-size chunks.

A couple months ago I had the privilege of hosting George on my Donna’s Book Pub Blog, as part of the Women on Writing WOW! Author’s Blog Tour.

Singleton is a teacher and an acclaimed writer who lives in South Carolina.  Okay, I admit, we’ve heard a lot about South Carolina lately, with the Governor’s mix-up over being in Argentenia rather than Appalacia,  so how about some favorable press about a South Carolinaian (is that the right word?).

Singleton’s blog tour was informative–and great fun! After his visit he sent me his book, and I’ve read through it a couple times. Before my grandkids’ school let out for summer vacation, I read the book in the carpool van, and I keep it on my reading table when I need some kick-in-the-pants inspiration or a pick-me-up smile.

Singleton’s  book is divided into three main parts:

Part I – Pep Talks is the longest section, with 177 pieces of advice. Some random ones are: #8, Where Ideas Come from, #9, When to Tell, #56, Perfection is Boring, and #144, In Other Words: “The more guano, the richer the garden.” 

Part II – Warnings contains 67 bits of wisdom, some lengthy, some brief. A brief, but wise one is #46 – Story First: “The pressures of language are often self-inflicted. Worry about the story first.”

Part III – Screeds is the briefest, with 14 mini-sections. The final, and longest, one: “How to Write Stories, Lose Weight, Clean Up the Environment, and Make $1,000,000,”  is very clever, funny, and wise.

The back cover of the book, sums it up: “Learning to be a writer is all about finding your legs, and doing your best to convince onlookers that you know what you’re doing and where you’re going.” 

If you’re a writer, or aspire to become a writer, Singleton’s book will put a smile on your face while guiding you along your journey.

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Filed under Humor, Non-Fiction, Writing Advice