This Sunday in Seward, Nebraska!

What to do on a Sunday afternoon? If you’re from around my area, near Lincoln, and you’re a fan of supporting Nebraska artists, or one who loves to read and enjoys poetry, I’d suggest you venture out on February 19th to Seward, Nebraska.

Like so many small Nebraska towns, Seward has so much to offer. There’s a Mexican Restaurant on South Highway 15 as well as a Chinese place downtown, and a little cafe downtown, too. Great little shops, a heck of a library, and two places in particular I encourage you to visit: Chapter Books & Gifts and Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room. These are both on Seward Street North of the court-house on the city square. Charming shops, both of them, and they’re both run by great ladies who care about their communities and about Nebraska. Seward is very fortunate to have both of these shops, and their owners, Carla Ketner of Chapter Books and Jeanne Wiemer of Red Path Gallery.

Last summer I had the pleasure of stopping by Red Path Gallery just to check it out. I visited with the owner and we got to talking about Nebraska writers and the Nebraska Writers Guild. Jeanne told me she’d been thinking about having Nebraska authors do readings there at Red Path. I told her I knew a number of Nebraska authors, specifically Guild members, who would make great speakers for her venue. An idea was born.

Good ideas have a way of rolling down hill and collecting speed. Carla of Chapter Books down the block visited with Jeanne and volunteered to help sponsor these events. So what we have now is a book store, an art gallery, and a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild, providing a monthly event to bring people out to the small town of Seward for a Sunday afternoon.

This Sunday, Red Path will feature Charlene Neely and Laura Madeline Wiseman, wonderful poets. Every third Sunday of the month will feature a different Nebraska Writers Guild author from screen writers, to biblical enactments, to young adult novelists, writing professors talking about the art of writing, romance novelists… truly, the Nebraska Writers Guild has a wealth of talent to share!

The poster at the top of this post tells you what you need to know. Come on out! Support small towns. Support small business. Support Nebraska artists and authors. Support Nebraska! But most of all, enjoy yourselves. Both events are free to attend. I’ll be there and I hope to see you this coming Sunday in Seward! It’ll be a great day in small town Nebraska!

LET THE JUDGING BEGIN!

short-story

ALL ENTRIES ARE IN!

The “About a Nebraska Town” short story contest to promote Nebraska Writers Guild authors has received eleven entries: six women and five men. I could not be more excited about the quality of the stories and applicants.

To those who entered stories… judges have until March 1st to read, make comments, and select the winner by a point system. Best of luck to all. I can’t wait to read them, and I know the other judges are just as excited!

 

Below are reminders of the rules of this competition. Judges should keep these factors in mind when judging the stories:

  • This competition is NOT sponsored or run by The Nebraska Writers Guild.
  • Stories entered are no longer than 5,000 words.
  • Stories are fictional, original, and submitted by the author.
  • Stories must be set in a Nebraska town and reflect the feel of a Nebraska town.
  • There is no fee for this competition. It is FREE, privately run, and specifically for Nebraska Writers Guild Members.
  • Your story may be dark, light, humorous, sci-fi, mystery, romance, horror, fantasy… whatever, as long as it’s set in a Nebraska town (small town, big town, real or fictional town, etc.) Not mentioning Nebraska would decrease the story’s odds of winning.
  • Enter stories written for an adult audience. No children’s stories for this competition. (Maybe in the future.)
  • Only twenty-five entries accepted, first come, first serve. (We had 11 and I’m thrilled with that number.)

DEADLINES:

  • The deadline for submission to this competition is January 1st. No more entries accepted at this time.
  • The award for the winner of this competition will be March 1st.

JUDGING:

  • There will be four judges, myself, Victorine E. Lieske, and Kim Stokely and Delores Schmidt.
  • I will announce the winner here on this website and on other social media outlets.

PRIZE:

  • I will publish the winning entry here on my blog, as well as on my Facebook Author Site.
  • The winner will receive a Winner Badge to put on their website or social media pages.
  • All entrants will receive feedback about their story from the judges.
  • The winner will own all gloating rights for winning this competition and can brag as loudly as tolerated by their friends and neighbors.

Judging Notes:

  • Stories which include explicit sex (erotica) or any descriptive scenes of abuse of women, children, or animals, will possibly be excluded. If a story is turned away, the author will privately be given the reasons, but let it be known this is a private business website and I am careful of what content I associate my writing career with.
  • IF your story does include romantic scenes or excessive or harsh swearing and wins, a notice for readers at the time of publication on this site will accompany the story.
  • I and the other judges agree not to use any part of any of the entrants’ stories for personal or business use. By entering your story, we do not own the rights to it, and cannot publish any portion or full extent of it, except for the winner’s here on this blog one time.

 

ARE YOU ADVENTUROUS?

 

shop-mom-and-pop-02bag

I am an advocate of Mom & Pop Shops. Small business. Joe’s Shoe Repair. Sally’s Nail Haven. Johnson Jewelers. They keep a town alive, give it charm, provide essential needs.

But wait… big businesses provide needs. Walmart. Target. Arby’s. Menards. Costco.

Why support small businesses? Why care about mom and pop and their little old shop? Let’s use restaurants as an example. Think about chain restaurants like TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Olive Garden, etc. I know exactly what I’m going to have when I go there. It’s almost like home cooking in that I know what it will taste like, and I crave the flavors. Chain sit-down style restaurants provide a nice meal and familiar food. People like familiarity. We’re not always up for an adventure.

But, if we are looking for an adventure, and want to try something new or cultural to an area, it’s fun to check out little family owned restaurants. The local bar and grills, diners, bakeries, and steak houses. This is where you get a real feel for the locals. And more fun yet is, when you find great food at a little eatery, you then get to tell people about it like it’s your own personal discovery. You sort of claim it… own it in a sense. You bring your friends from out-of-town. You say, “I know about this little off the map place!”

Now let’s compare this idea to books.

There are big name authors who write under traditional publishing labels. These publishing houses have big marketing capabilities, just like the Applebee’s or Cheesecake Factory Restaurants. They have market research professionals who can say, “No… people don’t want to read about vampires anymore.” Kind of like Applebee’s chain restaurants follow the trends and provide health conscious meals on their menus now. The marketing experts ask the question, “What do the people want?” The answer they give is, “Whatever it is, let’s give it to them so we can make money.”

But does everyone really want the same thing? Don’t we appreciate innovative new business? We like authenticity, don’t we? We applaud creativity, right? After all, before KFC was a chain of restaurants across the globe, it was first an old dude with a good chicken recipe. First, McDonald’s had one store. These places were all originally Mom & Pop Shops. They didn’t start out with big marketing divisions behind them. They just started out with a passion to do something they loved.

I can walk through the art section of every Hobby Lobby or Home Goods and find very similar paintings for sale at affordable prices. Splashy floral scenes, or cityscapes, images of Paris life. And they usually have a few of each kind, so you know… at least a few other people will have the same picture on their walls, too. That’s safe, right? Everyone likes that picture, that’s why they sell so many. It must be acceptable. It must be cool. The cool kids are always who we want to follow. We’ll all just do what they do, and that will make us cool, too.

Right? Scratches head. Wait a minute. Is that right? Do we really just want to mimic what’s trending? Apparently so, for a great many, or we wouldn’t have Hobby Lobby with shelves and shelves of look-alike art and decor items. We wouldn’t have chain eateries so we could make sure we were going to the same place everyone else likes.

But truthfully, I’ve never been cool. I love to see people out there just doing their own thing. I’ve been a lemming most of my life. Following everyone else, trying not to step too far out of boundaries, but deep inside, I really want to get a tattoo, color my hair hot pink and wear crazy fashions. I’ve just never had the guts. But when I see that person, I think, wow… that’s confidence.

Back to books. So yeah, we have the big publishers and big names and that’s cool. It really is. Agents and editors and marketers all wave the big flags and the fans come running. But then there are us little Indie Authors. I suppose the arguments could be the same as restaurants. There will always be those who prefer to eat somewhere that’s cool, proven, accepted; just like there will always be those who prefer to read whatever the literary powers that be tell them is good. No thinking involved. Set your free will aside, folks. THIS is what we are all gaga about this year. Whole towns read the same book. Whatever Oprah tells us. And no doubt! These will be good meals to feast on. (Some better than others, but probably all quite digestible.)

But then there are those of us who like to discover things on our own. We liked the B side of the album better than the hits. (remember records?) Not everyone knew how awesome those songs were. When you could find that other person who also loved the B side, then you knew you’d found someone else who didn’t necessarily follow the beaten path.

I think there are definitely people out there who enjoy discovering new authors. And with Indie’s, like diners, not every diner wants to become a national chain. Some just want to do what they love and make a living. I guess that’s the kind of Indie I am. I don’t need to have the whole world looking my direction and throwing money at me, but I’d like to make a decent living and I get closer to it every year.

So, I hope you’ll take a chance and adventure into Indie books. I’ll tell you right now that it’s just like with any new restaurant. There may be some places you like okay, some you won’t revisit, but maybe you’ll find that hidden gem. You’ll be like the Magellan of Indie books. A discoverer. And when you find it, spread the news. Help a Mom & Pop out. They’ll appreciate it.

In the Chute

tatergateToday is the day. I’m going to work on building my brand.

My dad raised cattle. Branding holds quite a few memories for me. I remember sitting on the top of a fence with a cattle prod. If the cattle wouldn’t go into the chute, I would zap them on the butt. Seems like I had gate duty sometimes, too. Some kind of lever I would pull to shut the cow into the chute. It held their head in an opening. Then someone would brand them or tag them or vaccinate them… whatever it was we were doing to the poor things. The purpose of the chute was to hold them still so they couldn’t hurt themselves. I was a kid. I did what my dad told me to do. Plus, I liked being around the men. They swore and spit and laughed a lot. I could get dirty and climb around and there was an electricity to it all… well, no pun intended regarding that cattle prod, but seriously, it was yelling and banging and mooing and commotion. It was one of those many times on the farm requiring a group of people to complete a task. I liked being a part of the group and right in the middle of the action.

But of course, branding has a new meaning now. You know branding even if you don’t think you do. It’s the thing we see that immediately tells us what the product is. Think Coke’s lettering style. Pepsi’s blue can. Those big McDonald’s arches.

I think Janet Evonovich may have one of the more stand-out author branding techniques with her covers. Solid bold colors, big splashy lettering, numbers. You know her books when you see them.

cow-brandI’ve read an author’s brand is their promise to readers. It tells the reader what to expect from us. Who we are. I guess it has the exact same purpose and meaning as it did with cows. Who is this cow? Who does this cow belong to? And all with no hot iron or burning fur! Ouch. Glad about that.

Yet, I keep putting it off as though I’m afraid of getting in that chute! Maybe what’s stopping me are those memories of cattle.

Regardless, the one thing I am consistently told by other other writers is that I have a very specific writing voice. My work can be recognized by my style and voice. This reminds me of the first time I remember someone telling me I was pretty. I remember looking in the mirror to check… I couldn’t see it and didn’t know why. I also remember thinking they were just saying it to be nice. It was probably an aunt or my mom. They have to tell us we’re pretty, don’t they?

So, to create this brand, I have to identify exactly who I am. What do I want to say? What are the things I can promise about me and my writing. That’s harder to figure out than one would think! I keep looking in the mirror and I just can’t see it.

But, it’s my goal for today. Figuring out what my brand should be. How should my books look? If I had a logo, what would it be? What and how would I describe what you can expect from my books? Wish me luck!