Category Archives: read

In Honor of Black History Month

Black History MonthThe month of February is Black History month.  I did a little research to find out more about some of the African-American writers who deserve to be honored this month.

We are all familiar with writers, such as Terry McMillan author of Waiting to Exhale (1992); and Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Prize winner and author of Beloved (1987) for which she won a Pulitzer Prize. The list also includes such writers as Alex Haley whose book Roots:  The Saga of an American Family (1976) was adapted to a popular television mini-series in 1977.

But the list of African-American writers of note not only includes these famous individuals and those such as poets Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou as well as novelist Alice Walker; it also includes more obscure names–people whose works you might have read and not realized that they were African-American.Black History month in books

Frank Yerby was an historical novelist best known as the first African-American writer to become a millionaire from his pen, and to have a book purchased by a Hollywood studio for a film adaptation.  The book, The Foxes of Harrow (1946) became the Oscar-nominated film “Foxes” starring Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara.

Samuel R. Delany is an author, professor and literary critic.  His work includes a number of novels, many in the science fiction genre, as well as memoir and criticism.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) was a Hugo and Nebulla award-winning author of science fiction.

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was the first African-American poet and the first African-American woman to publish a book. Born in Senegambia, she was sold into slavery at the age of 7 or 8 and transported to North America. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write, and encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.

The publication of her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) brought her fame, both in England, and the Thirteen Colonies; figures such as George Washington praised her work. During Wheatley’s visit to England, the African-American poet Jupiter Hammon praised her work in his own poem.

This list is woefully incomplete.  It would take far too much time to list every African-American writer–past and present–whose name deserves inclusion in such a list.  During the month of February I challenge readers to visit the internet or your local library to discover the work of more of the gifted writers whose names belong here and share with PPW what you find.  Who is your favorite?  What genre do they write?

Suzanne Bogue



Filed under Black History, books, genres, poetry, prose, publishing, read, reading, research, short stories, writers


Happy New Years 2013

Panhandle Professional Writers hopes this year will be the best and brightest for all our members, fans and weblog readers. Happy writing to all!

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Just Do It!

For years, the slogan Just Do It has been synonymous with Nike. It is the primary marketing slogan of the athletic shoe and apparel giant and the simple phrase is recognized worldwide.  The genesis of the slogan was Nike’s effort to encourage, prod and cajole potential customers into working out, thereby creating a need for Nike products.

Do your writing projects need encouraging, prodding or cajoling?  Have you been affected by the plague of death for writers?  I’m talking about writer’s block.  There are two schools of thought on writer’s block.  One school believes that writer’s block is a very real condition, which prevents writers from being able to produce creative, well-written prose.  The other school refuses to acknowledge the existence of writer’s block.  They see it as an excuse not to write.  I cast my lot with those in the second camp.

The fact of the matter is, with precious few exceptions, writing is work.  It is hard work.  Those who wait for inspiration to strike before writing are usually doing only one thing when it comes to their writing.  They are not writing.

Richard Nordquist authored a very interesting piece on overcoming writer’s block.  “Read a lot.  Write a lot.  Have fun,” can be found at  Nordquist offers five steps to overcoming writer’s block.  Here are some excerpts from that article.

1. Get Started

  • “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

Mary Heaton Vorse

  • “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.  The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” –Mark Twain

2. Capture Ideas

  • I carry a notebook with me everywhere.  But that’s only the first stop.  Ideas are easy.  It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”  –Sue Grafton

To expand on Grafton’s thought, in today’s world of technology, many of us are never without our Smart Phones.  Use the note pad application on your phone to capture thoughts and ideas until you can put these ideas to paper.

“I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block.  When I find myself frozen—whether I’m working on a brief passage or brainstorming about an entire book—it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into a passage or story where it has no place.” –Jeffery Deaver

3. Cope With the Badness

  • “You don’t start out writing good stuff.  You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.  That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” –Octavia Butler
  • “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” -Margaret Atwood
  • “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” -James Thurber

4. Establish a Routine

  • “I only write when I am inspired.  Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” –William  Faulkner
  • “Close the door.  Write with no one looking over your shoulder.  Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.  It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” –Barbara Kingsolver

5. Write

  • “If you want to write, write it.  That’s the first rule.” -Robert Parker
  • “My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline.” -Mary Garden
  • “Planning is not writing.  Outlining—researching—talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing.  Writing is writing. –E.L. Doctorow

Nordquist summed up his thoughts on overcoming writer’s block when he quoted Daniel Pinkwater in the title of his article: Read a lot.  Write a lot.  Have fun. I agree wholeheartedly.

Two things I have learned in the last year as I completed my first novel are: First, as Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.”  Second, as I’m learning now, John Irving was right when he said, “What I’ve always recognized about writing is that I don’t put much value in so-called inspiration.  The value is in how many times you can redo something.”

As you contemplate the next step in accomplishing your writing goals, remember, it starts with putting something on the page.  Nike got it right.  Just Do It!

Matt Sherley

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Filed under basics, read, writer's block, Writing, writing advise

Read, Read, Read

The most common writing advice I have received is to “read, read, read and write, write, write.” When I first heard this, I thought the reading part was easy. After all, I loved to read; it’s one of the reasons I’m a writer. But at the time, I would finish a book, make a mental note of whether I thought it was good or not, and move on to the next one. Recently, I discovered a different approach to my reading. I started noticing the pieces that make a book work and applying them to my own writing. So here’s my advice on reading:

First, learn about the mechanics of a story by reading books about writing or attending writing workshops. That way you’ll know the basics of what to look for. Then, when you finish a book, ask yourself what you liked about it. Was it the interesting characters, exciting plot, vivid descriptions, or did something else jump out at you? Likewise, if you didn’t like the book, or worse, couldn’t finish it, ask what went wrong. Were the characters flat, the plot boring, pacing too slow? Reading books in this way helps you to know what to put in to your writing and what to leave out. And it enables you to reach the ultimate goal of writing a book your readers can’t put down.

Lynnette Jalufka


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