“My Reading Life” by Pat Conroy–December 1, 2018

I have never written a blog before this attempt. My writing skills-if I have any-are due to my crazy college English professor, the adult education classes I took at Coastal Carolina’s OLLI courses, and the Coastal Authors Network, a writers group to which I belong.

Before I cite some facts about a famous southern author, I would like to list one thing I have learned that helped me in this creative process.

A quote from Leonardo da Vinci: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” For me as a writer that means when I go back to edit my stories, I need to leave some spaces on the page for additional information and corrections.

My goal as a new writer is to emulate as much as possible a southern writer many admired. For this blog, I will attempt to summarize an article Pat Conroy wrote entitled “My Reading Life”.

The famous author completed more than ten bestselling novels and a number of nonfiction works.

His article about the reading and writing process begins by Pat admitting he didn’t record the world as it is. Rather, how he transformed it by making it pass through the prism of the fabulous stories he had heard throughout his life. These stories became the vessels he used to interpret the world for himself. For Conroy, good writing is the hardest form of thinking. . . by attempting to turn profoundly difficult thoughts into understandable words. He took joy in the artistic loveliness of the English language.

Conroy always wrote with the help of his well-used dictionaries and thesauri, using words gleaned from his long-winded ancestors.

Pat credited his Georgia-born mother for getting him to fall in love with the sound of words. He wrote his stories in longhand starting in the early morning, bathing in the sunlight of the language of Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, and Churchill. Conroy built his sentences slowly. . . hearing his mother’s voice. She made her son into a wordsmith.

His novels were battlefields filled with smoke, noise, and cratered fields. They reflected absurdity and exorbitance. For him, all writers are prisoners of their childhood. Pat always heard his mother’s voice and felt his father’s fist. His early life became the basis of his art.

The women in Conroy’s books were always mysterious. He constantly sought to understand them and in turn his Mom. She had created an insatiable reader in her son- he read at least 200 pages a day for most of his life. Pat always sought to find the author’s heart in the books he read. He enjoyed tales filled with story and character and a thirst to know what happens next.

Finding a book he really enjoyed, Pat would ask himself: Can I match this depth? Can I incorporate his ideas into my thinking? What can this author achieve that I can’t? And, can I steal the author’s ideas and make them my own?

Pat wrote scenes with the wonders of living things he named, with characters who spoke their minds, with the horrors he had experienced growing up. Pat took infinite care in how his sentences sounded to himself. He rose out of the oral tradition of the American South. Conroy tried to express something simply and well.

His novels attempted to stir the readers blood. He seemed to be born to write.

An article in the Sunday Post and Courier by the Washington Post columnist, Kathleen Parker from November 4, 2018 talked about Pat Conroy and his untimely death in 2016. She wrote, “he had so many words tumbling around his head that he had to put them down on paper-literally and in longhand-to tell his stories. The result was a library of best-sellers, some of which became blockbuster movies, including ‘The Water is Wide,’ ‘The Great Santini’ and ‘The Prince of Tides’.”

Pat had fallen “in love with the marshes and waterways of the moss-draped, antebellum town” of Beaufort, South Carolina. His writings were influenced by his parents, his English teacher, as well as a wide cast of characters and creatures he encountered. Parker too grew up seeing, smelling, and tasting the same enchanted landscape of pluff mud, ospreys, and oysters.

A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy


Ideas that Inspire — November 24, 2018

Ideas that Inspire

I enjoy writing poetry. I will confess, however, I’ve never been published except for those poems included in the anthologies published by the university in my old home town.

I get my ideas from the experiences I’ve shared with the people in my life. Observing them. Listening to them and, yes, even touching them. Music is another source for ideas. The music from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s contains themes that can be expanded upon…and the lyrics rhyme for Pete’s sake. Why is rhyming poetry a thing of the past?

I also get ideas from reading poetry written by published authors. Since I’m originally from the Northeast, Robert Frost takes me back home with his descriptions of mother nature. And now, living in the Southeast, I’ve discovered edgy southern poets and their “Grit Lit”. the book Hard Lines: Rought South Poetry is a great read into the back door of southern culture.

At the Carolina Authors Network conference, coming in February 2019, I will be reading a few of my poems incorporating some of the ideas I’ve expressed above. Some serious. Some humorous. Some free verse. Some rhyming.

Hope to see you there.

Book Parts — November 17, 2018

Book Parts
So now you’ve finished your book. It’s been edited and you’ve decided to go with independent publishing OR a traditional publisher has accepted your manuscript. Hold on a minute. You aren’t finished yet. What else is needed?

• Write a blurb for the back of your book. It needs to be short and attention grabbing. It can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever write! At least I find it so. Keep in mind many people make their book selections reading this short description.

Sample of Book Back Cover

• Planning to dedicate your book to someone special? Then write a Dedication Page. It can be short and sweet or long and poetic.
• Acknowledgements keep you in good graces with the people who helped you along the way. Thank anyone who had aided you with your writing by mentioning them on the Acknowledgement’s Page. Your editor is always due a big thank you. Did you have a critique group? Beta readers? Your college English professor who encouraged you? A professional you contacted to be sure you correctly wrote procedures or techniques like a police officer or an accountant? All these people deserve recognition.
• Did you want to tell your readers the reason you wrote the novel? Or perhaps it is based on a true story. Author’s Notes is a good place to explain such details.
• The copyright page is a must. It contains more than the actual copyright information. This is where you identify people who created your book cover and if needed, the photographer who provided the cover shot. Also be sure to write the disclaimer of character names, places, and incidents as either fictional or that you have permission, if required, for factual events. Include the ISBN numbers on this page. Check out other books for various formats and information. If you are traditionally published they will handle this detail.

Sample of Copyright page

• Do you have other books? If so, consider creating a page containing the names of your other manuscripts. If readers love your writing then they’ll want to find out what else you’ve published.
• Have you received accolades on your current or previous project? Put those quotes on a Praise Page where readers can see for themselves they chose a fabulous book.
• And last, but certainly not least, the About the Author page. A photo of the author frequently accompanies this paragraph although it is not required. Make it short and informative. Does your book contain an Army Ranger as the protagonist? Then let them know you are an Army veteran. Some detail that ties-in with your book. Don’t use the same information with each book – change it up to provide your readers a glimpse into your life.

What’s Next??? Nov 10, 2018


After you’ve written your third or fourth draft with the input of your writers’ group…received comments from your beta readers and added their suggestions… listened to the advice of your editor and made the necessary changes…then what??

Some people think the next step is to create a query and send it off to potential agents or publishers. Others enter chapters of their manuscripts in contests promising to showcase winners in their magazines. Maybe even fly them to a conference in New York.

I’ve met several writers who attend conferences and submit their words to slush fests, only to hear why the agent or editor would stop reading after the third sentence. Rhino skin is hard to develop.

At my first writers conference, I was asked by an agent to submit my memoir to her agency. Her excitement about my topic was encouraging. I left the hotel feeling my work might be worthy of publication. Her phone call, a few days later, confirmed my feelings. She wanted my manuscript as soon as possible so she could issue a contract before the holidays. I was going to be published.

Six months later, after hearing my agent ask for more sex in my memoir, I decided to independently publish. The decision to submit my manuscript, using a self-publishing website, took me on a technical ride I thought I was prepared to handle. However, I quickly discovered the process was nearly as time-consuming and challenging as writing the memoir itself. How far to indent my margins, which headers on odd pages, where to place page numbers, gutters, fonts, format, template sizes, cover designs, and bleed. They all needed consideration. Did I have a picture of my own to upload for a cover? What do I want to write on the back cover? I quickly learned about royalty free images. The only problem was scrolling through thousands of possibilities and securing the rights.

After uploading the final material and reviewing the formatted version, I pressed submit to order the proof. Six days later, I opened the brown package and held my own book in my hand.

Since then, I have published two murder mysteries using the same process. I can’t say it’s quite like riding a bike, but it does get easier each time.

If you are at the “what next” stage in your writing, maybe someone at our Writers Conference will give you that extra nudge in order to hold your book with pride.

Editing Tips — Nov 3, 2018

Coastal Authors Network strives to share tips and guidelines for writing among its members. This blog is dedicated to do the same for those reading it. All members of our organization will take turns imparting information they feel is helpful to authors and aspiring authors. It will range from grammar to marketing and everything in between.

I’m going to start the ball rolling with one of my pet peeves. Editing. Yes, everyone needs to have an editor if you plan to publish a book. If you are independently published this is even more important. It’s a turn off to readers when they read a book that contains poor grammar or lacks continuity. Example of continuity: In chapter one the protagonist grew up in Idaho, but in chapter thirty-two he returns to his hometown in Montana.

First you self-edit your manuscript multiple times then you allow one or more people to look over your work to catch those pesky mistakes you miss. As the author you know what is supposed to be written and that’s what you see; not necessarily what is written on paper or screen.

Here are a few tips to help with self-editing.

1) Look for one or two things with each pass. Example: I use the words just, was, and that way too often. With the help of the find function in my electronic editor I check the number of times each word is used and where to find it to make changes.

2) Read your manuscript out loud. You’d be surprised what you’ll spot. Some sentences appear fine in the written word, but when said out loud they become awkward.

3) Instead of starting with page one start with the last page, the last paragraph. Read paragraph by paragraph from the bottom to the top. It helps keep you from skimming a document you’ve probably read dozens of times.

Some members of the Coastal Authors Network